Severe spinal stenosis is a condition in which a narrowing of the spinal column is sometimes accompanied by debilitating symptoms that are related to compression of nerve roots and/or the spinal cord. With this condition, symptoms of pain and discomfort can be so incapacitating that the condition greatly imposes on one’s lifestyle, preventing the 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 physician numerous times for the condition, receiving stronger and stronger treatments as the symptoms get worse. Treatments 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 moves into the “moderate” phase.
Severe spinal stenosis means that there is an acute narrowing of the spinal canal. This narrowing is often the result of degenerative changes in the patient’s spinal ligaments, vertebrae and intervertebral discs. A lifetime of everyday stress on the spine certainly can take its toll, leading to common age-related conditions like ruptured discs, degenerative disc disease and osteoarthritis. The spinal column – instead of doing its job of protecting the spinal cord and its nerve roots – 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 in an effort to relieve compression on nerve roots and the spinal cord. The specific area along your spinal column where surgery will take place often is pinpointed by an X-ray, MRI or CT scan, and then preparations for surgery can begin.
Traditional open spine surgery typically entails the following:
- A surgeon makes a 5 to 6 inch incision through the muscles and other soft tissues in the neck or back (or sometimes through the throat or 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 pressing on nerve roots or the spinal cord
- If a significant amount of bone is removed from the spine during surgery, spinal fusion also may be performed while the patient is still under anesthesia
- Spinal fusion involves the removal of an intervertebral disc, followed by bone grafts (either from other parts of the patient’s body or from a bone bank) being inserted into the empty disc space
- Screws, rods and wire are implanted to hold two vertebrae together while bone growth “fuses” the vertebrae into one solid segment of bone, 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. If you have been diagnosed with severe spinal stenosis and you want relief from your pain, you may not have to undergo traditional open back surgery and endure this recovery period. Laser Spine Institute offers effective minimally invasive procedures that are performed on an outpatient basis. For more information about our minimally invasive procedures, contact Laser Spine Institute today. We will gladly evaluate your MRI or CT scan for free to determine if our procedures are right for you.