Individuals with back pain may wonder whether or not spine surgery is a practical choice for them. While surgery may be an option for some patients, it is not always necessary since the majority of back problems can be relieved with non-surgical or conservative treatments.
The main purpose of spine surgery is to repair an anatomical lesion when conservative therapies have failed. Spine surgery should only be considered in instances where the exact source of pain can be identified. Therefore, it is not intended to pinpoint the cause of pain.
What Conditions Does Spine Surgery Treat?
Spine surgery is usually elective. This means that it is almost never essential. It is performed to diminish a deformity such as scoliosis, spinal stenosis, or a herniated disc. In the rare event that a patient has an unexpected onset of bowel incontinence or a progressive neurological loss of function, spine surgery is necessary.
As stated above, spine surgery is not conducted for exploratory purposes. The imaging results and pre-surgery evaluation serve to identify the spinal issues and help guide the design of the surgical procedure.
What Can I Expect During Spine Surgery?
Prior to a spine surgery, a surgeon will use advanced imaging techniques to correctly and accurately determine an anatomic lesion that acts as the root cause of pain. A magnetic resonance imaging or MRI scan has been known as the most effective test to determine the anatomical lesion that leads to pain.
Spine surgery can be performed as a minimally invasive spine surgery (MISS) or open surgery. A surgeon will decide which type of surgery is best for your particular situation. Whether he or she performs MISS or an open surgery, the spine can be targeted from different surgical approaches.
- Lateral approach. With the lateral approach, the spine is accessed through your side.
- Anterior approach. In this approach, the surgeon will be able to access the spine through your abdomen and from the front of your body.
- Posterior approach. A posterior approach is when a surgeon makes an incision in your back. Spinal surgery is usually performed under general anesthesia which requires you to be asleep throughout the entire procedure. In some cases, during spinal anesthesia you may be awake but are unable to feel anything from the waist down.
Common Types of Surgeries
- Discectomy. A discectomy involves removing herniated disk material in order to relieve it from inflaming and irritating the nerve.
- Laminectomy. Intended to relieve nerve pressure triggered by spinal stenosis, a laminectomy removes the bone that is overlying the spinal canal .
- Spinal fusion. A spinal fusion helps alleviate pain by stabilizing the spinal fracture. It is performed by connecting at least two bones in your spine.
- Artificial discs. As an alternative treatment to a spinal fusion, artificial disks may be implanted to help with pain that is caused by a degenerated disk.
- Kyphoplasty. Kyphoplasties are performed to attempt to eliminate pain that is caused by compression fractures of the spine. In this procedure, broken bones are stabilized with a cement like substance.
How Will I Recover from Spine Surgery?
After the surgery, you will be transported to the recovery room where our medical professionals will monitor you and check for complications. After about 45 minutes to an hour, postoperative care measures will be explained in a private room.
While a rehabilitation facility may be necessary for some patients, many patients go home within 48 hours of the operation. Pain medications and muscle relaxants will be determined before you leave.
Spine surgery will probably leave you feeling very tired. Throughout the recovery process, you will likely spend your time resting, walking around, and taking routine pain medications. It’s recommended that you find someone that can help you during the first few weeks after the surgery.
During the recovery period, the wound must also be kept dry and clean. It’s a good idea to keep a dry gauze over the incision at all times. In addition, writing down a schedule that highlights all of your prescription medications and when they should be taken is also recommended.
As time goes on, you can gradually increase your amount of activity. The type of surgery you had, your occupation, comfort, and energy level all dictate when you can return to work. While most patients return to work within two weeks, those with more involved surgeries and jobs that require physical activity may go back to work after a few months.
Who Performs Spine Surgery?
In the past, spine surgery was performed by general surgeons, However, these days, it’s more common for surgeons who specialize in the spine and its conditions to conduct spine surgery. At EmergeOrtho: Foothills Region, our surgeons have years of experience and knowledge with spine surgery.
EmergeOrtho: Foothills Region is located in the Unifour area so you don’t have to drive to Charlotte or other larger cities to receive high quality, custom spine care. Additionally, you do not need an MRI prior to scheduling an appointment and can schedule a spine surgery, if necessary at a hospital near you. Spine surgeries can be performed at:
- Frye Regional Medical Center in Hickory
- Catawba Valley Medical Center in Hickory
- Caldwell UNC Healthcare in Lenoir
- Carolinas Healthcare System Blue Ridge in Morganton