Eichel's doctor: Sabres' preferred surgery isn't best option
Dr. Chad Prusmack outlined two pathways available for Eichel on Jeff Marek and Elliotte Friedman's "31 Thoughts" podcast. The first, which is what the Sabres prefer, is an anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF) surgery. The procedure Prusmack recommends for the Sabres captain is an artificial disc replacement surgery.
In both procedures, the injured disc is removed through the front of the throat. However, in a fusion surgery, a surgeon will insert a graft, and the bones will fuse over time. In a replacement surgery, meanwhile, the disc is swapped out for an artificial one. Prusmack likens the replacement procedure to getting an artificial knee or hip.
The handling of Eichel's injury has been a major point of contention between the 24-year-old and the Sabres this offseason, with his agents saying in a statement that Buffalo "was in agreement with the artificial disc replacement surgery until that was no longer the case."
Prusmack assures both surgeries are "phenomenal procedures," but getting an artificial disc would suit Eichel's needs moving forward as it allows "better flexibility."
"That guy's slap shot and the way he's got to use his position sense, he's going to lose that if he gets a fusion. When you fuse the spine, it's hard to know where your head is on top of your shoulders," he explained.
"You want to make Jack Eichel as close of an identical twin to what Jack Eichel is after the surgery," Prusmack said, adding, "I think that he would perform better ... let's restore the motion so that he can perform at the elite level he does."
A concern for the Sabres is that no NHL player has ever undergone artificial disc replacement surgery, and it only became available to use in 2000, but Prusmack notes that athletes in other sports such as rugby and MMA have found the procedure to be successful. Hockey players have received the surgery, just not at the pro level.
Prusmack also said the recovery timetable for a replacement surgery is shorter. If Eichel were to receive the fusion surgery, he would be re-evaluated in three months and if that went well, he could be on track to return in six-to-nine months. With a replacement surgery, he could return to the ice within six weeks and engage in contact after eight weeks.