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Can I apply for SSDI after a cervical arthroplasty?

Cervical arthroplasty is one of several treatment options for those experiencing chronic spinal cord conditions, such as cervical disc degeneration. A person who suffers from a debilitating, medically determinable impairment may qualify for Social Security disability benefits

The Social Security Administration (SSA) awards Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) only to those who are unable to work because of a disabling medical or mental condition. To qualify for benefits, you must prove your medical condition has limited your functional capacity to the point where you cannot work.

What is cervical arthroplasty?

Cervical arthroplasty is a surgical procedure that uses artificial implants or discs to replace damaged discs. The procedure is intended to increase functionality in the affected area and decrease incidence of chronic and debilitating pain.

The procedure is used most often in cases of cervical disc degeneration. This is a fairly common condition that can cause:

  • neck pain;
  • tingling in the neck, arms and shoulders; and
  • limitations in function and mobility.

The goals of the procedure are to:

  • stabilize the spinal cord;
  • relieve pressure on the spinal cord;
  • reduce or eliminate pain;
  • provide long-term relief from debilitating symptoms; and
  • reduce the chances of additional spinal disease.

Modern surgical techniques have reduced hospital stays and recovery times for this procedure, which typically is performed with minimally invasive measures.

What are the potential complications of cervical arthroplasty?

Some patients may experience a dramatic improvement after undergoing a cervical arthroplasty. A study presented at the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons 2013 Annual Meeting showed that many patients had improved functionality five years after surgery. This was in comparison to patients who instead underwent anterior cervical discectomy and fusion.

However, a 2012 study by the School of Medicine of the University of Leeds in Great Britain showed several serious complications associated with the implants, including:

  • heterotopic ossification (bone tissue forming outside of the skeletal system);
  • migration of the implant or device; and
  • spontaneous fusion of devices.

Because this is a relatively new procedure, specialists and physicians do not yet have a comprehensive answer to how cervical arthroplasty will perform in the long term.

Can I apply for disability benefits based on my degenerative medical condition or necessary treatment?

Cervical arthroplasty is not specifically identified in the Social Security Administration’s Listing of Impairments (also known as the “blue book”), which is used as a standardized means to evaluate disability. However, the Listing does address a number of musculoskeletal system conditions and reconstructive surgeries necessary to address such conditions. Similarly, the SSA will consider unlisted conditions, provided they meet the standard of disability.

The SSA will consider several key factors when assessing whether your spinal or cervical condition and reconstructive surgery qualify you for disability benefits. These factors include:

  • whether your condition is expected to persist for 12 or more months;
  • whether your condition severely limits your ability to engage in substantial gainful activity (such as, you are unable to turn your head or concentrate because of chronic pain); and
  • whether you present sufficient medical evidence and other documentation to support claims of disability.

A disability attorney can help you determine if your condition qualifies you for monthly benefits. Schedule a free case evaluation by contacting our offices at 866-LAW-SSDI.