Surgical stabilization to relieve pinched nerves in the spine

By Michael Perry, M.D.

Pinched nerves occur in the spine when displaced anatomy, like a damaged disc, narrows nerve pathways and puts pressure on spinal nerves. The spine is responsible for holding the body upright while protecting the central spinal cord as it travels from the brain to the rest of the body. It also must be flexible enough to allow for basic movement like bending and twisting. To do this the individual vertebrae are connected by joints and cushioned by rubbery discs.

Over time, however, these components begin to break down due to aging and everyday stresses placed on them: a disc may rupture, a vertebra may slip out of place and bone spurs may form in an arthritic facet joint. Any of these issues can cause the nearby spinal cord or an exiting nerve root to become compressed, which can lead to pain, tingling, numbness and muscle weakness.

If conservative treatments like medication and physical therapy have been exhausted, stabilization surgery, also called spinal fusion, may be recommended in severe cases of nerve compression. During this surgery, a damaged disc is removed and the two vertebrae directly surrounding the disc are repositioned. A bone graft is then used to hold that area of the spine in place to fuse them together. By removing the disc and stabilizing the vertebrae, affected nerves can be relieved of compression.

Pinched nerve relief with minimally invasive spine surgery

If a degenerative condition of the lumbar (lower) spine does require vertebral stabilization and fusion, there are two main ways to approach this procedure. Minimally invasive stabilization, such as the transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion (TLIF) procedure offered at Laser Spine Institute, involves a small incision, the removal of a spinal disc and the implantation of a bone graft to relieve a pinched nerve. The result is an outpatient procedure with less risk of complication compared to traditional open spine procedures.

In contrast, traditional open spinal fusion surgery is a highly invasive procedure that requires hospitalization, a large incision, significant blood loss and muscle disruption. Patients are faced with higher risks for infection, nerve damage and scarring. While there are cases where a traditional open spinal fusion is required, in many situations minimally invasive procedures, including those at Laser Spine Institute, are the clinically appropriate first choice for patients with spinal nerve compression.^

Who is a candidate for transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion?

While minimally invasive stabilization is preferable for many patients who have been recommended fusion surgery to relieve the pain of compressed nerves, not all patients will be candidates for this type of procedure. Surgery of any kind should typically only be considered after several weeks or months of conservative treatments have been attempted. Other considerations for candidacy include age, general level of health and the severity of the underlying condition. Consult your doctor about the best treatment plan for the condition causing pinched nerves in the spine. If your doctor is recommending surgery, contact Laser Spine Institute to learn more about the benefits of our outpatient procedures.

Our team will gladly review your MRI or CT scan at no cost* to determine if you are a potential candidate for one of our procedures.