Scar tissue formation caused by back surgery can be extremely painful, limit mobility and flexibility, and greatly diminish quality of life. Extensive scar tissue production is typically associated with the long incisions and other tissue damage experienced during traditional open back surgery.
Scar tissue forms as a result of normal healing after any neck or back surgery. The scar formed on the skin is usually not problematic. The deeper hidden scarring around muscles, nerves, tendons and ligaments may generate significant symptoms. As scars mature, they contract. This is the cause of the wrinkled appearance of many old scars. If a scar surrounds a nerve, the scar’s contraction may strangulate the nerve. Similarly, if a scar attaches a nerve to surrounding bone, contraction pulls on the nerve. While scar tissue itself is typically not painful, scar contraction can trigger pain if it binds or impinges on nerve roots. Excessive production of scar tissue may lead to a condition known as epidural fibrosis.
The abnormal accumulation of scar tissue is occasionally diagnosed after patient’s initial recovery period has been pain-free following a lumbar discectomy or a lumbar decompression. Pain then returns slowly but steadily as scar tissue contracts over the subsequent 6 to 12 months. If the scar tissue contraction binds the nerve root to the spinal canal, other nerves, or strangulates the nerve, a patient experiences pain and other symptoms.
Sometimes, scar tissue formation is not actually the cause of pain, but another problem, such spinal fusion failure or other complications, causes pain in a patient.
Doctors often recommend stretching exercises to reduce the pain associated with scar tissue contraction. If stretching exercises are ineffective in relieving pain, a laminotomy, or a minimally invasive surgical procedure, can be performed to remove the offending scar tissue. Laminotomy is an alternative to the laminectomy often performed in traditional spine surgery. A laminotomy may be viewed as a smaller variety of laminectomy in which the vertebra’s lamina is modified but not entirely removed.
Laminotomy is an endoscopic procedure. During a laminotomy, a surgeon makes a small incision and then inserts a tube through which surgical tools can be used to remove scar tissue that is pressing on nerves and causing pain. Suction and irrigation are employed to clear debris from the affected area.
Positive aspects of scar tissue removal by laminotomy are:
- It can be performed as an outpatient procedure under local anesthesia
- A high success rate
- A quick recovery rate
- Minimal damage to surrounding muscles and other tissues
If you are experiencing symptoms of postsurgery scar tissue contraction, contact Laser Spine Institute today for a complimentary review of your MRI or CT scan by our medical team. Our experts will help you determine which procedure is best to speed up your recovery.