How does a doctor determine you need surgery for your degenerative spine?

There are several types of degenerative spine surgery, and each procedure is designed to address a specific spinal issue. This is necessary because age-related degeneration can affect the spine in a number of ways. For instance, the protective cartilage that lines the spinal facet joints can naturally break down and wear away over time (a condition known as spinal osteoarthritis). As a result, painful bone-on-bone contact can occur. In response, the body may produce bony deposits (bone spurs) to help protect the weakened vertebrae. Depending on the location of a bone spur, it may compress a spinal nerve. Also, as the spinal discs gradually dry out, they can become prone to bulging and herniating.

While any of these issues can be associated with a degenerative spine, many do not require surgery. Doctors generally recommend starting with conservative treatment in all but the most severe cases. That’s because many people are able to achieve meaningful relief with physical therapy, medications and other nonsurgical approaches. In general, this holds true regardless of whether the underlying cause of the symptoms is spinal osteoarthritis, a bone spur, a herniated disc or another degenerative issue.

How does a doctor determine whether surgery is needed?

In some cases, degenerative spine surgery may be necessary. To make this determination, a doctor will consider a number of factors, including:

  • The type and location of the spinal degeneration
  • The nature, severity and duration of the symptoms
  • The patient’s age, overall health, lifestyle and preferences
  • The effect of conservative treatment

Usually, a doctor will help a patient develop a nonsurgical regimen and then monitor the patient’s progress, making treatment adjustments as necessary over the course of several weeks or months. At the end of that time, if the patient is still experiencing severe or worsening symptoms, surgery may be considered. The most appropriate type of procedure will depend on several individual factors.

What is minimally invasive degenerative spine surgery?

The minimally invasive degenerative spine surgery performed by the surgeons at Laser Spine Institute is a safer and effective alternative to traditional open spine surgery.^ Because our outpatient procedures involve small incisions and use muscle-sparing techniques, the rate of surgical complications is minimized.

Additionally, our patients generally experience a shorter recovery time than that typically associated with traditional surgery.^ Contact us if you’d like to learn more. We can tell you if you are a candidate for minimally invasive spine surgery by providing a no-cost MRI review.*