Ulf Fernström (1915-1985) and his Contributions to the Development of Artificial Disc Replacements.

Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Title

World Neurosurg


History, 20th Century; Humans; Intervertebral Disc; Intervertebral Disc Displacement; Neurosurgeons; Prostheses and Implants; Total Disc Replacement


INTRODUCTION: Artificial disc replacements, which serve the function of separating vertebrae to allow for proper spinal alignment, can help treat debilitating low back pain in patients who have failed other conservative methods of treatment. A Swedish surgeon, Ulf Fernström, was the pioneer of artificial disc replacement, and his contribution in the form of Fernström balls dramatically altered spinal surgery and technique by showing the proper technique and implant that should be used for areas requiring motion in many planes.

HISTORY OF THE ARTIFICIAL DISC: Ulf Fernström created his artificial disc inspired by the movement of the hip and knee joints. His implants attempted to restore disc spacing and articulation in patients who had failed conservative measures of treatment. Fernström balls were the first implants of their kind and represent the first attempt at artificial disc replacement. However, many surgeons and researchers questioned Fernström balls, claiming that their lack of elastic properties could damage patients.

CONCLUSIONS: Of the wide range of implants on the market for the intervertebral disc space, all designs and applications of products stem from the initial discovery made by Fernström, thus making him a pioneer in disc replacement.

Clinical Institute

Neurosciences (Brain & Spine)