Patient Stories

All the Right Moves: A Cervical Disc Replacement for a Black Belt

A martial artist, Leslie Shallow suffered an injury during a training exercise about five years ago that left him with a herniated disc in his neck. “It was getting progressively worse so I had to take care of it,” says Mr. Shallow.

Mr. Shallow was who was referred by his primary physician to Russel C. Huang, MD, Director of the Hospital for Special Surgery Spine Surgery Clinic. The solution was a cervical disc replacement. “The most common reason we operate on the cervical spine is degeneration of the disc,” says Dr. Huang. “Cervical disc replacement is one of the more exciting, newer surgical approaches at HSS. Fusion is effective, but restricts motion in the spine. With disc replacement, we insert an implant that relieves pressure on the spinal cord and the compressed nerves while retaining some motion. Disc replacement is intended for individuals who have only one or two levels of disc involvement.”

Today, at 52 years old, Mr. Shallow, a third degree black belt, can again focus on his training. “Dr. Huang told me I could stay the way I was without doing anything but that my quality of life would be diminished,” recalls Mr. Shallow. “I’m active so I told him to go ahead [with surgery], now I don’t have any pain.”