Spinal stenosis surgery: what are the goals?

By Michael Perry, M.D.

In most cases, a spinal stenosis operation is considered the treatment of last resort when you have not found relief through nonsurgical means. A large number of patients suffering from painful symptoms caused by stenosis are actually able to get effective treatment from more conservative methods. But when other options have been exhausted, surgery is sometimes needed to treat the source of the pain.

What is spinal stenosis?

Spinal stenosis is a narrowing of spinal nerve pathways that can cause chronic pain if a nerve becomes compressed. This narrowing is usually a direct result of a degenerative spine condition, which can occur from natural age-related wear and tear.

Here are a few examples of the conditions that can lead to spinal stenosis:

  • Bulging or herniated discs
  • Bone spurs from arthritis
  • Facet disease
  • Spondylolisthesis
  • Swollen ligaments

When is a spinal stenosis operation necessary?

Spinal stenosis does not always cause symptoms; in fact the condition can go undiagnosed for a long time if nerve tissue does not become compressed or irritated. Only when the source of narrowing — such as a bone spur or herniated disc — interferes with the spinal cord or a nerve root will disruptive local or radiating symptoms occur.

If you and your physician have tried weeks and months of nonsurgical methods like rest, medication, hot/cold compression or physical therapy, and these treatments haven’t brought relief needed for an acceptable quality of life, surgery may then be considered. The goal of a spinal stenosis operation is to remove the source of narrowing and decompress the nerve tissue that is causing painful symptoms. Traditionally, these types of procedures have required a large incision to access the spine, resulting in muscle disruption, hospitalization, blood loss and a long rehabilitation.

At Laser Spine Institute, we offer a number of minimally invasive procedures that can help you find relief from neck or back pain in an outpatient setting. Our procedures involve a less than 1-inch incision and other muscle-sparing techniques that lead to less risk of complication and a shorter recovery time compared to traditional open spine surgery.

Contact us today for a no-cost review of your MRI* to learn whether you’re a potential candidate for a minimally invasive spinal stenosis operation.

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