Osteophytes do not require surgery unless they are causing pain or other symptoms to a degree that one’s quality of life is diminished. Osteophytes – more commonly known as bone spurs – are not actually painful. In fact, it is not uncommon for someone to go years without discovering the presence of osteophytes. Surgery would be an overreaction, too, if the accompanying discomfort were merely an annoyance – especially since osteophytes are themselves completely benign.
It is when bone spurs come into contact with other tissues that problems may arise. A small knob of bone in the wrong place can irritate or interfere with muscles, tendons, ligaments, nerves – even blood vessels. This can lead to inflammation, pain, and a decrease in range of movement in the affected joint or spine segment; in the neck (cervical spine), diminished circulation, difficulty swallowing, and breathing problems may result, depending on the location of the osteophytes. Surgery may be necessary in cases in which blood flow or breathing are affected, or if spinal osteophytes impinge on a spinal nerve root.
How Osteophytes are Removed
In an open osteophytectomy, the surgeon will clip off osteophytes using an instrument that resembles a pair of pliers after accessing the affected area through a significant incision and then use a powered instrument to resurface the bones. Such a procedure carries with it hospitalization for several days followed by a lengthy and painful recovery process. At Laser Spine Institute (LSI), however, we perform all of our procedures using a minimally invasive endoscopic technique that enables our surgeons to access the trouble spot through an incision less than half an inch long. Such a method precludes the cutting of muscle; instead, muscle and other tissues are merely pushed aside. The removal of the offending osteophytes then involves the use of very small remote instruments that accomplish the same goals with much less disturbance and collateral tissue damage than traditional open spine surgery.
If you are suffering from spinal osteophytes, surgery might be the only option to relieve you of the pain and other symptoms that may occur. In that case, contact LSI to find out more about how we can help you rediscover your life without pain.