Do osteophytes require surgery?

Osteophytes are bone spurs that often form near the joints or vertebrae of the spine. These small nubs, while sometimes unnoticed, can trigger severe pain and symptoms if they touch a nerve root traveling through the spinal canal.

For patients diagnosed with osteophytes, or bone spurs, the question of surgery can be consuming. After all, spine surgery is often associated with increased risk and sometimes even failed back surgery syndrome. That is why many patients are relieved to learn that most cases of osteophytes can be treated without spine surgery. There are several conservative treatment methods that help reduce the pressure of the bone spur on the nerve, therefore reducing the pain and symptoms.

Potential problems and symptoms of osteophytes

Symptoms and pain only arise when bone spurs come into contact with a nearby nerve. A small nub of bone growth can cause debilitating pain and prevent you from enjoying your daily activities if it causes nerve compression. The most common symptoms of this include:

  • Inflammation
  • Pain
  • Decrease in range of motion
  • Diminished circulation
  • Difficulty swallowing and breathing problems could result if the bone spur is in the neck (cervical spine)

Surgery for osteophytes is only necessary if several months of nonsurgical treatments have failed to reduce your symptoms. Your physician can help you determine the best alternative treatments to reduce your pain based on the severity of your osteophytes (bone spurs) and your medical history.

However, if several months of alternative therapy has not reduced your symptoms, you may be recommended to undergo spine surgery for your osteophytes.

How osteophytes are removed surgically

In an open osteophytectomy — a traditional open back surgery to remove a bone spur — the surgeon will remove the osteophytes through a large incision that often requires the detachment of the surrounding muscles. This highly invasive procedure can lead to hospitalization for several days, followed by a lengthy and painful recovery process.

At Laser Spine Institute, however, we perform all of our procedures using a minimally invasive technique that allows our surgeons to access the spine through a small incision. This method avoids the cutting of muscle; instead, muscle and other tissues are merely pushed aside to decrease a patient’s risk of infection and complication. Once the spine is reached, the bone spur is removed through a minimally invasive decompression surgery. Sometimes, a stabilization surgery is also required to repair severely damaged discs or joints that led to this condition.

If you have been recommended to have spine surgery to treat osteophytes, contact Laser Spine Institute to learn about the safer, effective alternative to traditional open back surgery. Our specialists can review your MRI report or CT scan and determine your candidacy for our procedures.