The notion of undergoing back surgery can be a frightening one. This makes sense especially for those who aren’t aware of the broad advances made in spinal treatment procedures in just a few short years.
Spinal surgery today, more often than not, is a minimally invasive option that can treat a variety of different (and painful) conditions, and offers limited exposure and shorter recovery periods.
In fact, there are six common back surgery procedures offered right here at Atlanta Spine Clinic. Learn more about them, and find out how you can tell whether this might be a treatment option for you. First, though, a bit on minimally invasive spine surgery in general.
What Is “Minimally Invasive” Spine Surgery?
Minimally invasive spine surgery (MIS) actually just refers to the techniques now used routinely for most back surgery procedures. Spinal professionals also refer to it as “endoscopic surgery” because it involves vastly smaller incisions to perform surgical procedures that used to require open back surgery.
This is made possible in large part due to advancements in surgical instrument technology. Using specialized retractors, video instruments, and surgical equipment, we now have greater visibility through small incisions and are able to perform even the most complex treatments such as vertebrae fusion and spinal cord work.
It is a new — and better — way for back surgeons to offer treatment to those suffering from chronic conditions and pain with reduced risk and a number of new benefits.
The Cascading Benefits of Endoscopic Spinal Procedures
All the benefits of endoscopic spinal procedures lead to a single overarching benefit — less trauma when fixing your back. Here are some of the specific reasons this is true:
Smaller Incision Site
Usually, the incision site is around an inch in diameter. If you know someone who’s had back surgery in the past, you understand that many procedures previously called for nearly filleting a patient down the spine. No more.
Less Trauma to the Tissue
Smaller incisions naturally mean less tissue being traumatized as surgeons navigate the length of the spine to perform the delicate and precise corrections our patients need.
Lower Levels of Blood Loss
Less trauma to the tissue equates to less blood loss, too. When you lose blood during surgery, it can present a whole host of other issues entirely unrelated to the condition you’ve come in to correct.
Reduced Down Time
Smaller incision sites also mean fewer pain receptors are traumatized and there is less work for your body to do to heal. This means recovery time is accelerated overall (and scarring is reduced, too).
These facts mean you can get back to your normal life faster. The cascading benefits of smaller incisions make it possible to perform procedures like herniated or bulging disc repairs, vertebrae fusions, and bone spur removal with much less risk and easier recovery.
There are actually six common back surgery treatments available through minimally invasive methods today.
Compression Fracture Repairs
Known as vertebroplasty and kyphoplasty, these procedures are options that allow repairs to be made on compression fractures commonly resulting from conditions related to osteoporosis.
Essentially, the treatment requires a bone cement to be applied to the fractured area where it will harden, ultimately strengthening the vertebrae.
Spinal Stenosis Decompression
When spinal stenosis is present, the spinal canal has been narrowed, usually by obstructions like bone spurs. This condition can result in pain or areas of numbness or weakness.
The procedure to correct this issue is known as a spinal laminectomy or spinal decompression. Your surgeon’s goal is to open up the spinal column and free it up from any obstructions in order to release pressure on your nerves.
Herniated Disc Removal
Often when patients come in for conditions involving compressed nerves, a herniated disc is the culprit. So laminectomies (described above) are often performed in conjunction with what’s known as a discectomy.
This is the medical term for the removal of a herniated disc pressing on nerve roots in the spinal column or on the spinal cord itself.
Spinal Canal Enlargement
In some cases, a disc hasn’t actually become herniated but is simply “bulging” into the walls of your spinal canal. Also important to recognize, many patients experience a natural thickening of the vertebrae when compression is left untreated. This is your body’s attempt at providing your nerves with added protection.
In either situation, your surgeon can enter the spinal canal endoscopically and enlarge the bony hole at the site of the affected nerve root to relieve pain and pressure on it.
Minimally Invasive Spinal Fusion
Spinal fusion procedures are used to relieve symptoms of a variety of painful conditions including, but not limited to:
- Chronic neck and back pain
- Degenerative disc disease
- Recurrent herniated discs
- Spinal instability (like spondylolisthesis)
- Traumatic fractures
- Tumors and other infections
The procedure requires the removal of spinal discs between vertebrae and then fusing the two then-adjacent vertebrae with grafted bone or metal plates secured with screws. Spinal fusion surgery is typically used as a last resort as it requires a longer recovery period than other procedures in order for bone grafts to grow and fuse the bones together.
Artificial Disc Replacement
When patients suffer severe damage to their discs, there is an alternative consideration to spinal fusion surgery for artificial disc replacement. The procedure is exactly what it sounds like. The damaged disc is removed and replaced with a synthetic one in order to restore both height and movement between your vertebrae.
Are You Considering Endoscopic Back Surgery?
Here at Atlanta Spine Clinic, no matter the level of invasiveness, we always use back surgery as a final option. However, when you’ve managed a chronic condition for years, and find that the current treatments available are no longer effective, you may want to consider your surgical options.
Contact us to schedule a consultation and let an experienced spinal specialist review your case. We will help you navigate the best options for your condition and health circumstances.
And if it makes the most sense to move forward with back surgery, you’re in good hands with our renowned spine surgeon, an expert in endoscopic, minimally invasive spine surgery techniques!