Surgical Spine Procedures

When conservative treatments no longer control back pain, fusion and disc replacement procedures are surgeries that you and your surgeon may consider.



Surgical spine procedures

The flexibility of our spine enables us to engage in the work and leisure activities we enjoy. Over time, however, age and disc degeneration can restrict spinal mobility. Back pain is a significant cause of disability, and an estimated 70 to 80 percent of us will experience back problems at some point in our lives. Learn more about surgical spine procedures available, and when they make sense as a treatment option.

The vertebrae of the spine are separated by discs. Each normal healthy disc has a cushioning center surrounded by a thick band of tissue. When the disc is injured or degenerates, it can collapse, which may cause pain and loss of range of motion.

Surgical spine procedures

Conservative non-operative therapies focus on controlling pain. When these therapies cease to be effective, advances in spine surgery can control pain with improved recovery and mobility after surgery. Appropriate surgical treatments for spinal degenerative disc disease vary based on whether the diseased disc is in the neck (cervical spine), middle of the spine (thoracic spine), or lower (lumbar) spine; how many discs require repair; and on the overall condition of the patient.

Lumbar fusion surgery

This is a procedure that fuses two or more vertebrae together in the spine. The diseased disc between the two fused vertebrae is sacrificed, as is mobility between the two fused vertebrae. Spinal fusion was first used to treat fractures, and is now also used to treat age-related spinal problems, herniated discs, and spinal stenosis. It is considered the “gold standard” for treating low back pain when nonsurgical methods cease to be effective. Fusion surgery can improve back pain, but the patient does lose mobility in the segment of the spine that is fused.

Total Disc Replacement

Artificial, or total disc replacement surgery, is a fairly new surgery that removes the diseased spinal disc pad between the bones, and replaces it with a mechanical disc device that mimics the function of the disc. This surgery can reduce pain, improve post-surgical recovery time, and preserve the patient’s natural range of motion.

When back surgery becomes appropriate, you and your physician can review your procedure options and make the choice that is best for your condition and circumstances.

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