Thoracic disc surgery

The thoracic spine is made up of 12 vertebrae in the middle of the back, known as T1–T12, and is located from the top of the shoulder blades to the hip bones.

Often, the thoracic spine does not experience degenerative disc disease or other spine conditions that develop with age because the thoracic spine does not bend or move, thereby reducing the wear and tear that occurs in this section of the spine. Unlike the cervical spine that supports and moves the head and the lumbar spine that supports and moves the body, the thoracic spine helps maintain proper posture and support to the rib cage.

While the thoracic spine undergoes less stress than the other two sections of the spine, degenerative spine conditions may still occur there. Also, spine conditions that result from injury or trauma may develop in the middle of the back, causing conservative or surgical treatment to become necessary.

Some of the spine conditions that could develop in the thoracic spine and cause pain and symptoms include:

  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Nerve compression
  • Spinal stenosis
  • Spondylolisthesis
  • Herniated discs
  • Other degenerative spine conditions

Treatment for spine conditions in the thoracic spine

Many spine conditions can be effectively treated with conservative therapies. These treatments range from simple lifestyle changes to physical therapy and pain medication. A physician or spine care specialist can help you find a treatment regimen that fits your condition and lifestyle.

However, some patients with more severe spine damage may require surgery. If you are faced with spine surgery for a damaged disc in your thoracic spine, you typically have two choices: traditional open back surgery or minimally invasive spine surgery.

Traditional open back surgery is highly invasive and will require overnight hospitalization and a lengthy rehabilitation period. Typically, if thoracic disc surgery is being attempted as an open back procedure, the surgeons will remove the problematic disc entirely and fuse the adjoining vertebrae together. The problem with this is that the procedure often results in an increased risk for infection and postoperative complications, including failed back surgery syndrome, due to the cutting and detachment of the muscles near the spine.

Alternatively, minimally invasive spine surgery uses advanced technology to remove the portion of the disc that is causing nerve compression and other problems through a small, muscle-sparing incision. This procedure is called a minimally invasive discectomy and sometimes, when the entire disc is damaged and must be removed, is coupled with a stabilization procedure. When this happens, the damaged disc is replaced with an artificial disc and bone grafts to support the spine.

This outpatient procedure takes a matter of hours and doesn’t require the lengthy recovery^ of traditional open back surgery. For more information about our minimally invasive procedures, or to see if our spine surgery is right for you, contact the spine experts at Laser Spine Institute for a review of your MRI or CT scan.