Cervical disc replacement (CDR) is a motion-preserving surgical procedure for treating patients with degenerative disorders. Numerous reports of first generation CDR “ball-and-socket” articulating devices have shown satisfactory clinical results. As a result, CDR devices have been safely implemented in the surgeon’s armamentarium on a global scale. However, only minor design improvements have been made over the last few years, as first generation CDRs devices were based on traditional synovial joint arthroplasty designs. As a consequence, these articulating designs have limited resemblance to the complex kinematic behavior of a natural disc. This has driven the development of deformable viscoelastic CDR devices to better mimic the biomechanical behavior of a natural disc. As a result, several viscoelastic CDR devices have been developed in recent years that vary in terms of materials, design and clinical outcomes. Since these viscoelastic CDR devices are fairly new, their weaknesses and strengths, which are related to their design characteristics, have not been well described. Therefore, this literature review discusses design related advantages and disadvantages of deformable viscoelastic CDR devices. As such, this paper can provide insight for surgeons and engineers on specific design characteristics of several viscoelastic devices and could potentially help to develop and design future implants. Eleven viscoelastic CDR devices were identified. An extensive database search on the devices’ tradenames in Medline and PubMed was performed next. The devices were categorized based on common design characteristics to give an overview of both category and device specific complications and advantages. Overall, literature shows that most of these viscoelastic CDR devices can provide motion in all six degrees-of-freedom and have a variable center of rotation. Nevertheless, the viscoelastic materials used do not have an extensive history in orthopedics, so the long-term material behavior in vivo is still unknown. Although the viscoelastic devices have common benefits and risks, each specific design and category also has its own design related advantages and drawbacks that are described in this review. Altogether, viscoelastic total disc replacements seem to be a promising option for the future of cervical arthroplasty, but long-term clinical outcome is needed to confirm the advantages of mimicking the viscoelasticity of a natural disc.
Keywords: Artificial cervical disc; Cervical disc arthroplasty; Complications; Design; Kinematics; Spine; Viscoelastic.