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What is spine surgery?


Spine surgery is any surgery that involves the spinal column. There are many different types and for the majority of patients spine surgery is recommended after attempting other treatments such as medical management, interventional spine procedures, physical therapy, and weight loss while improving fitness.

If spine surgery is proposed it is important to understand what surgery is recommended. Not all spine surgeries are the same. There are multiple types of spine surgeries and they are recommended based on the injury or pathology that the patient presents with.  A thorough discussion with the surgeon to understand which surgical option is recommended and why, is important before moving forward.  Some surgical options include disc replacement, cervical laminectomy/laminotomy, anterior cervical discectomy and fusion,  cervical posterior instrumented fusion, lumbar microdiscectomy, lumbar decompression, lumbar laminectomy/laminotomy, posterior lumbar instrumented infusion, posterior lumbar interbody fusion, lateral lumbar interbody fusion, anterior lumbar interbody fusion, and lumbar and thoracic kyphoplasty/vertebroplasty.

It is the surgeons experience and understanding of the problem that leads to formulating and planning the correct surgery for the patient.  Surgical planning is an important step in the treatment process as well as educating the patient on the surgery recommended along with a thorough discussion on the benefits and risks of that surgery.

Is spine surgery right for you?

Spine surgery is usually recommended when conservative options have been attempted for a reasonable amount time and if symptoms are too severe to manage with further conservative treatment. The surgeon has to assess if there is a spine surgery that will fix the injury to the passive structures of the spinal column leading to an improvement in the patient’s symptoms.  If surgery is proposed as a treatment option, the patient needs to feel that further conservative treatment would not provide the relief they are looking for and that they are comfortable with the proposed surgical option after a review of the benefits and risks of the surgery.  Once these 2 conditions are met surgery would be the correct option.  It is also important to note that spine surgery may be recommended before attempting all conservative options if there is neurologic dysfunction, significant weakness, loss of bowel or bladder control, cervical myelopathy, spinal cord injury, as well as severe intractable pain.

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