Understanding your options when it comes to back surgery

Types of back surgery

Sometimes, back pain can become unbearable in spite of several months or years of conservative treatments. If you have exhausted all nonsurgical treatment options and you are still suffering from chronic, debilitating back pain, your physician or spine care specialist may recommend that you undergo back surgery.

At Laser Spine Institute, we understand that back surgery is an overwhelming and sometimes alarming thought. You have already suffered for months or years with this consuming pain, and you might have even lost hope that there is a treatment that will work for you. For many patients who find themselves in this situation, two main thoughts come to mind: “Back surgery can’t be worse than my current pain” and “Back surgery is too risky, so I’ll just suffer through the pain forever.”

Fortunately, there is a good answer to both of those thoughts. While back surgery does carry risks, it can also carry great rewards. The key is to find a type of back surgery procedure that lowers the risk and increases the benefits when compared to traditional open back surgery — the minimally invasive spine procedures at Laser Spine Institute.

Choosing the right type of back surgery for you

Back surgery is a serious surgical procedure and should be fully considered before committing to the operation. We strongly encourage each patient to fully research the types of back surgery available to make sure that the procedure is really the best option.

One thing to consider when narrowing down the type of back surgery for your spine condition is the location of your condition. Depending on the area of the spine that is damaged, surgeons can use different, minimally invasive techniques to perform the surgery without having to cut through large sections of muscle surrounding the spine, as required during traditional open back surgery.

The three areas of the spine are the lumbar spine (lower back), the thoracic spine (middle back) and the cervical spine (neck). The lumbar spine and cervical spine are the two most common areas for damage because these two areas allow for movement and pivoting of the vertebrae, while the thoracic spine is largely used to support the trunk of the body and does not move.

Once you have determined the area of the procedure, you can use that information to decide which type of surgery you would like to pursue: traditional open back surgery or minimally invasive spine surgery.

Types of back surgery available

Traditionally, open back surgery has been used to treat a herniated disc or other spine condition that has not responded to conservative treatments. One of the most common types of traditional open back surgery is a discectomy and spinal fusion, where the disc is removed and the vertebrae on the top and bottom of the removed disc are fused together with a bone graft and implants.

However, a number of potential complications can be associated with traditional open back surgery, including infection at the surgical site, the presence of scar tissue exacerbating pain, failed fusion, continued local or radiating pain and a recovery time of months or years. In the case of a traditional spinal fusion, the body may reject the bone graft or the pain may be transferred to another segment of the spine.

All of these complications and risks are increased due to the highly invasive techniques used to reach the spine. For example, in order for a traditional open back surgery to begin, the surgeon must make a very large incision in the back and detach the muscles surrounding the spine in order to reach the damaged area. Once the surgery has been completed, the surgeon must reattach the muscles, which increases a patient’s recovery time while the muscles rebuild. Additionally, the sizable incision and cutting of the muscles leaves a patient susceptible to excessive blood loss and scar tissue that could block the fusion from taking hold, creating failed back surgery syndrome.

With recent advances in medical technology and orthopedic surgery, spine surgery become increasingly popular. The rise of minimally invasive spine surgery as an alternative to traditional open back surgery is becoming a common choice for patients suffering from chronic back pain. The minimally invasive procedures at Laser Spine Institute reduce risk and recovery time due to the way our surgeons approach the spine.^ Unlike the highly invasive approach taken during traditional open back surgery, our minimally invasive procedures are performed through a small, one-inch incision and muscle-sparing techniques.

We are able to treat many of the same spine problems that are addressed with traditional open back surgery while offering the benefits of a much shorter recovery time and a 98 percent patient satisfaction score.^

For more information on the types of minimally invasive procedures available at Laser Spine Institute, contact Laser Spine Institute us today. We will be happy to provide you with a free MRI review* which can help determine if you’re a candidate for our treatment options.