Types of Back Surgery
Back Surgery Overview
Back surgery is usually seen as an elective procedure that is only used after conservative pain management options have proven ineffective or the patientís symptoms have become debilitating. Generally speaking, there are two back surgery approaches that are used to alleviate symptoms stemming from nerve compression in the spine: open back surgery and endoscopic spine surgery. In both methods, the surgeon is working to alleviate the impingement and irritation of the spinal cord and/or nerve roots.
When nerve tissue in the spinal column is impinged and irritated, a patient can experience a variety of symptoms, known collectively as radiculopathy, including: local or radiating pain, muscle weakness, and numbness and tingling in the extremities. Most commonly, this nerve agitation is caused by a bulging or herniated disc, degenerative disc disease, spinal stenosis, foraminal stenosis, arthritis in the spine, the presence of tissue build-up, and bone spurs.
Exploring Your Back Surgery Options
Once the diagnosis of the back or neck problem has been confirmed through a complete medical exam and imagery such as an MRI, a number of surgical options may be presented. With open back surgery, a common procedure is spinal fusion where the damaged disc is literally removed and the vertebrae above and below the removed disc are permanently welded together. Artificial disc replacement (arthroplasty) is another possibility for some patients.
Recovery and success rates from back surgery also are varied, depending on the patientís pathology. Success of the back surgery is typically relative; some patients experience immediate relief and others gradual. Success of a surgery is also closely related to the completion of post-operative rehabilitation and physical therapy. It is equally important that patients go into surgery with realistic expectations.
Cervical Back Surgery
Cervical surgery is typically recommended when neck pain cannot be effectively managed with more conservative treatments. Cervical surgery is generally seen as an elective procedure, but with recent advances in endoscopic spine surgery, it has become a more popular option for addressing chronic pain.
Thoracic Back Surgery
Thoracic surgery is typically recommended to correct significant problems with the thoracic segment of the spine, which is located in the mid-back. Typically thoracic surgery, as with all spine surgeries, is seen as a final option after other, more conservative, treatments have been exhausted. When indicated, thoracic surgical options can include both traditional open back procedures, as well as the less-invasive endoscopic option.
Lumbar Back Surgery
Lumbar surgery is a corrective course of action that may be recommended for lower back problems after more conservative treatments have been exhausted. While spinal surgery is typically seen as a last resort, the lumbar spine degenerates faster and requires surgical intervention more frequently than any other part of the spine, mainly because of the lower backís great range of motion and heavy weight burden.
A discectomy is a procedure to remove a portion of the disc that rests between each vertebrae. A herniated disc is the most common reason for spine surgery. In this type of spine surgery, the herniated disc is removed and relieve the pressure on the nerves.
A spine fusion is surgery that is done to eliminate motion between adjacent vertebrae. The spine fusion may be done because to treat a problem such as spondylolisthesis (unstable spine), or it may be done because of the extent of other surgery (such as a laminectomy).
Spinal disc replacement is a new surgery that is still quite uncommon. Spine disc replacement is done to treat specific types of back pain, while avoiding the problems associated with spine fusion surgery.