Scar tissue formation caused by neck and 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 caused by traditional open-spine surgery.
Scar tissue forms as a result of the normal healing process after any neck or back surgery. The scar formed on the skin is usually not problematic. However, 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 a patient’s initial recovery period has been pain free following a lumbar discectomy or a lumbar decompression. If scar tissue that contracts over the subsequent six to 12 months binds a nerve root to the spinal canal or other nerves, or strangulates a nerve, a patient may experience pain and other symptoms.
Physicians often recommend stretching exercises to reduce the pain associated with scar tissue contraction. If stretching exercises are ineffective in relieving pain, a laminotomy, which can be performed as a minimally invasive surgical procedure, may be suggested to remove the offending scar tissue. Laminotomy is an alternative to the laminectomy often performed in traditional open spine surgery. A laminotomy may be viewed as a smaller variety of laminectomy in which a vertebra’s lamina is modified but not entirely removed.
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 include:
- Being performed as an outpatient procedure
- Having a high success rate
- Offering a quick recovery rate
- Causing minimal damage to surrounding muscles and other tissues
Sometimes, scar tissue formation is not actually the cause of pain, but another problem, such as spinal fusion failure or other complications, causes pain in a patient. If you are experiencing symptoms of post-surgery scar tissue contraction or open spinal fusion failure, contact Laser Spine Institute today for your MRI or CT scan review. Our experts will help you determine which procedure is best suited to treat your specific situation.