What are my options for degenerative spine surgery?

Degenerative spine surgery can address a variety of spine conditions caused by aging, trauma and genetics. The spine is a system made up of bones, muscles, ligaments and spinal discs. When any of these elements doesn’t function properly, it can affect the mobility of the spine and potentially cause pain at the site of the problem, as well as radiating symptoms like pain, numbness and weakness. A degenerative spine condition is an umbrella term used to refer to any condition involving the breakdown these spinal components. Such conditions include the growth of bone spurs, bulging or herniated discs and degenerative scoliosis.

Most of these problems are induced by nothing more than the natural aging process, which can commonly lead to the loss of cartilage in the spinal joints, the thinning of the discs in the spine and the thickening of ligaments. This can lead to disruptive symptoms that might eventually make surgery necessary. Read on to learn about the types of treatment options available for your degenerative spine, including conservative methods, traditional spine surgery and the minimally invasive spine surgery offered at Laser Spine Institute.

Conservative alternatives to degenerative spine surgery

The majority of people who experience degenerative spine conditions don’t require surgery to feel relief from their symptoms. In most cases, doctors recommend a combination of lifestyle changes and nonsurgical treatment methods that can help manage pain and discomfort. For example, patients who are overweight may be advised to manage their weight to remove some excess pressure on the spine, and smokers are typically asked to quit smoking because it contributes to degeneration within the spine.

Physical therapy is also commonly recommended to properly stretch the affected neck or back muscles and to strengthen core muscles that support the spine. Many people also find that taking over-the-counter or prescription medications, such as anti-inflammatory drugs, pain medications and muscle relaxers, as recommended by their doctors, can help them to manage symptoms. For more severe degenerative spine conditions, steroid injections into the spine may be recommended in order to alleviate persistent inflammation.

Traditional approaches to degenerative spine surgery

Although many people with degenerative spine conditions find conservative treatment methods help to control their symptoms, some eventually turn to surgery as a way to find more meaningful relief if they are not getting better after several weeks or months of treatment. Procedures may involve the removal of problematic bone or disc material (as in the case of discectomies) and/or the decompression of compressed nerves of the spine.

Traditionally, these degenerative spine surgery options are completed using traditional open spine approaches, which involve making a long incision in the neck or back through which the surgeon completes the procedure. These surgeries are completed in a hospital setting and require several days of inpatient monitoring before the patient is cleared to return home. When the surgery is complete, the highly invasive methods of accessing the spinal components can often mean heavy scarring and intense postoperative pain.

Minimally invasive approaches to degenerative spine surgery

Laser Spine Institute performs minimally invasive degenerative spine surgery, which provides many advantages over open neck or back surgery.^ Our minimally invasive decompression procedures are performed on an outpatient basis and are intended to alleviate the pressure that damaged spinal elements can place on nerve roots and the spinal cord itself. These procedures include:

  • Foraminotomy. The narrowing of the foramina can compress nerve roots exiting the spine. To make more room for the affected nerves, our surgeons can widen the foraminal canal space.
  • Laminotomy. No matter its cause, spinal stenosis (the narrowing of the spinal canal) can compress the spinal cord. Our experienced surgeons can complete this degenerative spine surgery to remove a portion of a vertebra and alleviates that pressure and the associated symptoms.
  • Discectomy. When discs are damaged, they can compress the spinal cord or nerve root, leading to pain and other symptoms. Laser Spine Institute surgeons can remove a portion of such a disc to decompress the affected nerves without destabilizing the spine.
  • Facet thermal ablation. Inflamed facet joint nerve endings can cause ongoing spine pain. Our board-certified surgeons+ perform this degenerative spine surgery to deaden a nerve in order to alleviate the discomfort. This procedure is most commonly performed in conjunction with decompression procedures.

For more advanced cases of spinal deterioration, Laser Spine Institute surgeons also perform minimally invasive stabilization (MIS) procedures for candidates of minimally invasive spine surgery as a safer and effective alternative to more invasive traditional procedures.^ These degenerative spine surgery approaches include:

  • Decompression with an Interlaminar Stabilization™ device. Used to treat spinal stenosis, this degenerative spine surgery involves decompressing the affected area, then inserting a coflex® device to better stabilize the spine and help prevent future compression.
  • Anterior cervical discectomy fusion (ACDF). Through an incision in the neck, our surgeons can remove a damaged disc and restabilize the spine using bone grafts or artificial disc replacement.
  • Cervical disc replacement. This degenerative spine surgery involves removing a problematic disc in the cervical spine and replacing it with an artificial one.
  • Transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion (TLIF). Using a unilateral approach, our surgeons can access the spine to fuse adjacent vertebrae together without having to forcefully retract the nerve roots as much as in a traditional, open spine fusion surgery.
  • Lateral lumbar interbody fusion (LLIF). This degenerative spine surgery is performed to address a variety of conditions that can lead to lower back and leg pain, and it consists of reaching the spine through small incisions on the sides of the body. The surgeons then remove much of a damaged spinal disc before placing a spacer and fusing adjacent vertebrae together to stabilize the spine.
  • Posterior cervical fusion. Our surgeons access the spine from the back of the neck to fuse together two or more vertebrae. This approach may be used to treat myelopathy, spinal deformities and extremely herniated cervical discs.

Using our minimally invasive approaches, Laser Spine Institute’s dedicated team has helped more than 75,000 patients find relief from neck and back pain caused by degenerative spine conditions. Plus, our surgery options typically have much shorter recovery times^ and involve less damage to muscles when compared to conventional open spine surgeries.

At Laser Spine Institute, our state-of-the-art facilities perform our minimally invasive procedures through a small incision that does not disrupt the muscles and ligaments near the spine. For more information about our degenerative spine surgery options, contact Laser Spine Institute today. You can talk to us about your diagnosis and receive a no-cost review of your most recent MRI results.*