If you have back pain, the last thing you want to hear is that spinal surgery is needed to fix the problem.
A Signature Medical Group orthopedic specialist will offer alternative treatments. But if surgery is necessary, there are several types of spinal surgery:
Spinal fusion. This is the most common kind. A Signature surgeon will join spinal bones, called vertebrae, together. This limits the motion between them and how far your nerves can stretch. But it probably won’t limit your activity. It’s rare, but the bones don’t always fuse completely. Smoking can make this more likely. If it happens, you may need another operation to fix it.
Laminectomy. In this procedure, a Signature surgeon removes parts of the bone, bone spurs, or ligaments in your back. This relieves pressure on spinal nerves and can ease pain or weakness. It can make your spine less stable. If that happens, you’ll probably need a spinal fusion. Doctors sometimes do the two procedures together.
Foraminotomy. A Signature surgeon cuts away bone at the sides of your vertebrae to widen the space where nerves exit your spine. The extra room may relieve pressure on the nerves and ease your pain. Like a laminectomy, this procedure can also make your spine less stable. So the surgeon may do a spinal fusion at the same time.
Discectomy. Sometimes a disc, the cushion that separates your vertebrae, can slip out of place, press on a spinal nerve, and cause back pain. In a discectomy, the Signature surgeon removes all or part of the disc. The surgeon may have to make a big cut in your back, or he may be able to do it through a small one. Sometimes it’s part of a larger surgery that includes laminectomy, foraminotomy, or spinal fusion.
Disc replacement. A Signature surgeon removes the damaged spinal disc and inserts an artificial one between your vertebrae. Unlike fusion, this lets you continue to move your spine. Recovery time may be shorter than for a spinal fusion, too. But there is a slight chance the new disc could slip or fall out of place and require repair.
Interlaminar implant. A Signature surgeon implants a U-shaped device between two vertebrae in your lower back. It helps keep the space between them open and eases pressure on your spinal nerves. It can be done at the same time as a laminectomy. Unlike spinal fusion, the implant provides stability and lets you move your back almost like normal. You may not be able to bend backward as easily in that area.
The biggest risk of back surgery is not knowing if it’s going to help with your pain. The best thing you can do is talk openly with your Signature Medical Group surgeon so he or she knows what’s going on with your health and you know what to expect.