When May Spine Surgery Be Appropriate?


Most people suffering from back pain will not need spine surgery. However, for a small percentage of these patients, spinal surgery becomes the best option for pain relief.

The good news is that even if you do require spine surgery, many modern procedures are minimally invasive and do not take as long to heal as traditional, open back surgery. Your doctor could make a recommendation for spine surgery based on your diagnosis and medical history.

Failure of Conservative Treatment

In most cases, patients undergo conservative treatment to see if that will relieve their pain and allow them to regain mobility. Typical conservative treatment includes the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen or naproxen, physical therapy, massage, a custom-tailored exercise program, hot and cold therapy, and spinal injections.

Patients with spinal pain can expect to undergo a conservative treatment regimen for at least three months to experience results. If conservative treatment fails to work, a doctor may recommend surgical options.

Spinal Stenosis

Spinal stenosis occurs when the spinal canal narrows, compressing the nerves within. It is a common condition in older people. Symptoms include weakness, pain, and numbness, usually in the neck or lower back. These symptoms usually increase with time. When the narrowing is severe, the doctor may recommend one of various potential types of surgery to open up the spinal canal.

In a laminectomy, the rear part of the affected vertebrae is removed. This procedure is also known as decompression surgery, since it decompresses the trapped nerves. If that option is not preferable, a laminotomy is a simpler operation that removes just enough of the lamina – the flat or arched bone plates covering the spinal canal – to relieve nerve pressure. Alternatively, a laminoplasty can be performed on the cervical, or neck area, of the spine to create a “hinge” of sorts that opens up part of the spinal canal.

Emergency Spinal Surgery

Most people realize that if they are in an accident and suffer a spinal injury, emergency surgery may prove necessary. Recent trauma is not the only reason that a patient may require an emergency spinal surgery. Patients suffering from cauda equine syndrome (CES) often need quick action on their spinal problems.

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