Degenerative disc disease surgery is often the last resort for patients whose pain from degenerative disc disease is so severe that it restricts their ability to work or perform other daily activities. Surgery usually is only recommended if symptoms have not responded to non-surgical treatments like medication, exercise or physical therapy. If you are experiencing symptoms of chronic neck or back pain, please review our degenerative disc disease page, and visit our degenerative disc disease exercises page to learn more about non-surgical treatments.
There are several approaches to degenerative disc disease surgery. One of the most common types typically performed is a fusion, most often at the L5 to S1 segment, located just below the small of the back. The procedure at the L5 to S1 level involves bone grafting between the transverse processes and the sacrum. This unites the bones, preventing motion and perhaps ending the pain.
A second type of degenerative disc disease surgery, interbody fusion, involves permanently joining together one or more vertebrae of the spine. Spinal fusion is typically a highly invasive operation requiring the excision of a significant portion of the spinal anatomy. It entails several steps: First, one or more large incisions are created in various locations. Second, the underlying muscles, tendons, ligaments and investing fascia are severed and distracted while approaching the site of the actual area to be fused. Then, the intervertebral disc or discs are completely removed, including the periosteum (bone covering tissue) of the endplates of the vertebra to be fused. After that, bone fragments from the patient’s own body or another source are packed into the void once occupied by disc. Metallic hardware devices are then affixed to the vertebra and connected or linked together to securely immobilize the vertebra being fused. The surgeon will then suture the major disrupted muscles, tendons, etc., into approximately their original position (minor structures are ignored). Finally, the skin incisions are closed. Open spine fusion surgery requires hours to complete and involves many significant risks. After the surgery, the patient may expect a difficult recovery period that can take many months to complete.
In some cases, patients may not respond to conservative treatment, and surgery is suggested. It is reasonable to determine the least invasive, yet effective, surgical treatment possible. Please investigate the minimally invasive procedures performed at Laser Spine Institute. These procedures have shorter recovery periods and lower risks than traditional open spine surgeries of all types. Contact us today for a review of your MRI or CT scan, and to receive more information about Laser Spine Institute.