Should you consider spondylolisthesis surgery?

Surgery can address painful symptoms caused by spondylolisthesis, a spinal condition that occurs when a vertebra slips out of place. While not always problematic, a displaced vertebra can sometimes crowd sensitive nerve tissue in the spinal column, possibly leading to discomfort. In many cases, however, surgery is not the first treatment considered. One reason is that the mild-to-moderate low back and leg pain that is often associated with spondylolisthesis usually responds well to nonsurgical options like physical therapy, temporary back bracing and medications.

Another reason why many people are discouraged from rushing into spondylolisthesis surgery is that, over time, the spine may naturally readjust itself to accommodate the vertebral slippage. This often occurs when the condition is present at birth (congenital spondylolisthesis) or results from gradual, age-related spinal degeneration (degenerative spondylolisthesis). On the other hand, if spondylolisthesis develops suddenly as a result of a spinal injury sustained in a car accident, fall or other traumatic event, prompt spondylolisthesis surgery may be the best option for alleviating pain by realigning the compromised vertebra.

Signs that surgery should be considered

You may be a candidate for spondylolisthesis surgery if you are experiencing one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Severe or persistent low back or leg pain
  • Muscle weakness that impairs mobility
  • Intense spasms in the hamstring muscles at the backs of the thighs
  • Numbness and tingling sensations that radiate down one or both legs
  • Discomfort that continues to worsen despite conservative treatment
  • Bladder or bowel incontinence (signs of an emergency condition known as cauda equina syndrome)

Surgical treatment options

To be most effective, spondylolisthesis surgery must address both the mechanical and compressive symptoms (if present). This may involve decompressing a nerve root at the point where it exits the spinal column in order to alleviate pressure and irritation, as well as stabilizing the spine, if necessary.

For patients who require spondylolisthesis surgery, the surgeons at Laser Spine Institute perform minimally invasive decompression and stabilization techniques. For instance, unlike traditional open back fusion, our minimally invasive stabilization surgeries use a small incision to access the spine and stabilize the weakened area, resulting in a shorter recovery time^ with less risk of complications. To learn more, contact Laser Spine Institute today.