Spine Surgery Options

Back Surgery Options

Your physician has been treating your back pain for some time now and nothing seems to give you the relief you need.  Instead the pain and stiffness seems to be getting worse, now you have pain which goes down your leg, some tingling and numbness at times.  Your doctor suggests the possibility of surgery to correct the herniated disk.  The odds of improvement is good, your physician stated there is a 30 to 50 percent improvement rate, which is considered to be very good, by the medical environment.  You obtained a second opinion and together your spine specialist and you decide the surgery would be the best option to decrease your constant pain.  So which surgical technique is right for you?

Types of Back Surgeries

Back operations work to correct different problems.  There are several types of back operations available, with excellent results for many patients.

Discectomy:

This operation involves the removal of a herniated disk which is pressing on a nerve root or the actual spinal cord.  The surgeon removes the disk material or fragments which are protruding into the spinal column.  Usually back patients stay in the hospital for one or two nights to recover from the anesthesia and to monitor for infection of other complications.  In some cases patients are released the same day.  Discectomies are quite successful in most cases, giving the patient the desired relief from back pain, leg pain and the numbness.

Laminectomy:

The purpose of a laminectomy is to relieve spinal stenosis, which is a narrowing of the spinal canal, which cause back and leg pain.  This form of surgery is performed on the lower back, it involves removing the back side of the spinal canal to relieve the pressure and pinching of the nerve roots.  The surgeon makes a tiny incision in the lower back, then pushes aside the fat and muscle to expose the spine.  The procedure then involves removing the protruding bone spur.  If a herniated disk is present the surgeon will remove the damaged disk, which means that a laminectomy and discectomy are performed during the same surgery.

Spinal Fusion:

A spinal fusion is a much more involved surgery, it consists of joining two vertebrae together to make one, which is meant to stabilize the back in an area where the movement of the two vertebrae are causing pain.  Spinal fusion is used most often to correct spondylolisthesis (slippage of the spine), but today it is now used for other deformities such as a fracture, improving the spines stability.  Suring the surgery small pieces of bone are needed to fuse the two bones together.  This extra bone is grafted bone obtained from the patient’s hip or pelvis.  Screws, plates rods, and/or cages are used to perform the fusion.  This operation is not always a success, there are mixed reviews concerning spinal fusion, so before deciding on a spinal fusion, look into other less complicated surgeries.  Spinal fusion is not always right for everyone.

Vertebroplasty:

This is a relatively new procedure to correct back problems.  This is a common surgery for patients who are suffering from a compression fractures, such as from osteoporosis or multiple myeloma.  The vertebrae can become fragile and weak causing the compression fractures.  The plus of having a vertebroplasty is the fact it isn’t an invasive procedure.  The procedure involves injecting “cement” directly into the fractured bone, which then stabilizes the bone.  The cement hardens within a few hours, acting as a sealant, which stabilizes and relieves the back pain.  Some people swear by this procedure, while others didn’t have the same results and still experienced pain.

Back pain is something that can be difficult to diagnose and treat.  You may have great results from non-surgical methods, from surgery or nothing may help to relieve the pain.  It’s all a matter of the type of pain, injury, surgical technique and the rehabilitation period-whether you will get the relief you want and desire.  Educating yourself about the options, getting a second or third opinion, and estimating the pros and cons, are what you need to determine the best action for you.  You want the procedure you choose to relieve the back pain, not increase it so choose carefully.

Barbara Lucore

I have been a nurse for 15+ years and as a nurse I understand how to prevent back strain and pain. The correct ways to lift objects, the causes of back pain, treatments available, the exercises to reduce or prevent back pain and the proper ways to move without strain or injury to your back.