Is surgery the best treatment option for canal stenosis in the neck?
Surgery for canal stenosis (a narrowing of the spinal canal) in the neck is an advanced form of treatment that can be used to alleviate pressure on the spinal cord or a nerve root. Canal stenosis, which often results from age-related spinal degeneration, does not always cause discomfort or require treatment. However, if it involves nerve compression, it can be very painful and disruptive.
The spinal canal is a hollow tunnel that houses and protects the spinal cord and a series of sensitive nerve roots. If this already-limited space becomes further encroached by a herniated disc, inflamed facet joint, thickened ligament or bone spur — all of which are common byproducts of spinal degeneration — the spinal nerves can become overcrowded and painful pressure can result.
When is canal stenosis surgery the best treatment option?
For many people, conservative treatments such as medications and physical therapy prove to be effective enough to eliminate the need for canal stenosis surgery, which is typically viewed as a last resort. In general, surgery may be appropriate for a patient who has two key characteristics. First, the canal stenosis symptoms have progressed to the point that they are interfering with the patient’s daily life. Second, several weeks or months of nonsurgical therapy have not produced meaningful relief. At that point, the patient and his or her physician may decide that surgery is the best option.
Types of spinal narrowing surgery
To relieve pressure on a spinal nerve in the neck, several types of canal stenosis surgery may be considered. For instance, depending on a patient’s specific needs, a surgeon might recommend:
- Discectomy. A surgeon removes part or all of a bulging or herniated disc that is compressing the spinal cord or a nerve root.
- Fusion. A surgeon removes a damaged disc and replaces it with a bone graft so that the surrounding vertebrae will grow into a solid piece of bone to support and stabilize that spinal segment.
- Laminotomy. A surgeon removes a portion of a spinal bone (lamina) to increase the space available for a crowded spinal nerve or spinal cord.
Before you decide to proceed with any type of canal stenosis surgery, you should research all of your options, which may include both traditional open spine surgery and minimally invasive outpatient surgery. After you become educated about the various approaches that might be appropriate for you, you will be better positioned to make informed decisions.
At Laser Spine Institute, we offer minimally invasive spine surgery as an alternative to traditional open spine surgery for canal stenosis treatment. Unlike traditional surgery, our procedures are performed on an outpatient basis using muscle-sparing techniques. By taking this approach, we help our patients avoid the lengthy rehabilitation period that often follows open spine surgery.^