With severe spinal stenosis, symptoms of pain and discomfort can be so debilitating that the condition greatly imposes on your lifestyle, preventing your ability to work, enjoy leisure activities, or even get dressed in the morning.
By the time a person is diagnosed with severe spinal stenosis, he or she typically has been to the doctor numerous times for the condition, receiving stronger and stronger treatments as the symptoms get worse. It may begin with rest and physical therapy for mild spinal stenosis, and then slowly graduate to prescription pain medications and epidural steroid injections as the condition moved into the “moderate” phase.
Severe spinal stenosis means that there is an acute narrowing of the spinal canal because of degenerative changes in the patient’s spinal ligaments, bone structure, and discs. Age-related conditions like ruptured discs, degenerative disc disease, and osteoarthritis – plus a lifetime of everyday stress on the spine – certainly can take their toll. The spinal column – instead of protecting the spinal cord – can lose its structural integrity and place constant pressure on nerve bundles.
If your case of spinal stenosis gets this serious, then your physician may recommend traditional open back surgery in an effort to relieve your pain and discomfort.
Spinal stenosis surgery is performed in order to remove bulging disc material, bone spurs, ligaments, or other tissue that are pressing on nerve roots and the spinal cord. The specific area along your spinal canal where surgery will take place is pinpointed by an x-ray, MRI, or CT scan, and then surgery can begin.
Traditional open back surgery typically proceeds this way:
- General anesthesia is used for sedation
- A surgeon makes a 5-6 inch incision through the muscles and soft tissues in the back (or sometimes through the abdomen, depending on where the problem is)
- After accessing the targeted part of the spine through incision, a surgeon can remove tissue or bone matter that is pressuring on nerve roots in the spinal cord
- If a significant amount of bone is removed from the spine during surgery, another surgery, known as spinal fusion, may be performed while the patient is still under anesthesia
- Spinal fusion employs bone grafts from other parts of the body and sometimes screws, rods, and wire to “fuse” two vertebrae together in order to stimulate bone growth in this area – with the ultimate goal of stabilizing the spine
Following traditional open back surgery, there is usually a lengthy recovery period, sometimes lasting up to a year. You also may need to take pain medication for several weeks after surgery. If you have been diagnosed with severe spinal stenosis and you want to alleviate your pain, you may not have to undergo traditional open back surgery and endure this recovery period. Laser Spine Institute offers minimally invasive endoscopic procedures that are performed on an outpatient basis and have a much higher success rate than open-back surgery. For more information on our procedures, contact LSI today. We will gladly evaluate your MRI or CT scan for free to determine if our minimally invasive procedures are right for you.