Spinal surgery includes a wide array of procedures and understanding the types of spinal surgery can make patients feel better prepared. Most of the time, surgery is a last resort that is recommended when nonsurgical treatment is not helping a patient improve.
Types of Spinal Surgery
The type of surgery recommended will depend on a patient’s preoperative diagnosis. Physicians almost never perform back surgery without identifying a specific anatomical lesion that needs to be corrected, as it is thought that the risks of surgery are too great to simply be looking for a problem. Common types of spinal surgeries include:
- Spinal Fusion: The surgeon joins vertebrae together to restrict the movement between bones and limit the stretching of nerves.
- Laminectomy: The surgeon removes parts of bones, bone spurs, or ligaments which are causing back pain.
- Foraminotomy: The surgeon cuts away the sides of vertebrae to give nerve roots more space and reduce pressure.
- Discectomy: The surgeon removes part or all of a slipped or bulging disc that is pressing on a nerve and causing pain.
- Disc Replacement: The surgeon replaces a damaged disc with an artificial disc to permit improved motion of the spine.
- Interlaminar Implant: An alternative to spinal fusion, a device is inserted between two vertebrae to maintain the space between them.
Benefits of Spinal Surgery
While the main goal of spinal surgery is relief from back pain, there many additional benefits including:
- Increased range of motion
- Less or no need for pain medication
- Better physical fitness
- Improved mood
- Ability to return to work or active hobbies
Risks of Spinal Surgery
The majority of spinal surgery patients suffer from no complications because of the procedure. Each different type of spinal surgery has its own risks, which may include:
- Nerve damage, resulting in pain, paralysis, weakness, sexual dysfunction, or loss of bowel and bladder control
- Reaction to anesthesia or other drugs used during surgery
- Recurrent disc herniation, requiring further surgeries
- Blood clots, increasing the risk of heart attack or stroke
After any spinal surgery, a period of recovery is required in which the patient will need to rest and slowly re-learn how to do some physical tasks.