Degenerative spine surgery options

Degenerative spine surgery can address a variety of spine conditions caused by aging, trauma and genetics. The spine is a system of bones, muscles, ligaments and intervertebral discs, and when any of these elements don’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, weakness and numbness. The term “degenerative spine condition” is actually an umbrella term used to refer to any condition involving the breakdown of any of these spinal components. Such conditions include the growth of bone spurs, bulging or herniated discs, degenerative scoliosis and so on. 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 intervertebral discs and the thickening of ligaments – all of which can lead to disruptive symptoms for which surgery might eventually be necessary.

Conservative treatments for degenerative spine conditions

The majority of people who experience degenerative spine conditions don’t require surgery to feel relief from their symptoms. In most cases, physicians 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 lose 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 physicians can help them to manage symptoms. For more severe degenerative spine conditions, steroid injections into the spine may be recommended in order to alleviate more persistent inflammation.

Traditional approaches to degenerative spine surgery

Although many people with degenerative spine conditions find it helpful to control their symptoms with conservative treatment methods, some eventually turn to surgery as a way to find more meaningful relief. 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 open spine approaches, which involve making a long incision on 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 as an alternative to more invasive traditional procedures. 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 intervertebral spaces.
  • 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 to alleviate that pressure and the associated symptoms.
  • Discectomy — When discs are damaged, they can impinge on 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 surgeons perform this degenerative spine surgery to clean out an affected joint and deaden the joint’s nerve in order to alleviate the discomfort.

For more advanced cases of spinal deterioration, Laser Spine Institute surgeons also perform minimally invasive stabilization (MIS) procedures as an alternative to the traditional spinal fusion procedures. These degenerative spine surgery approaches include:

  • Decompression with Interlaminal 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 a small incision on 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 of variety of conditions that can lead to lower back and leg pain, and it consists of reaching the spine through incisions on the sides of the body. The surgeons then remove much of a damaged intervertebral 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 medical experts have helped tens of thousands of people 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 than conventional open spine surgeries.

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 review of your most recent MRI results.