Whether or not to have back surgery can be a difficult choice. While it is definitely not right for everyone, in some cases, it may be the best or even the only option.
In general, back surgery is considered only when all other non-surgical options have failed. In fact, in the majority of cases, back surgery is not needed, and most back issues can be resolved by medication, massage therapy, physiotherapy or even chiropractic care. However, in a subset of chronic or severe cases, back surgery may be warranted.
Who May Benefit from Back Surgery?
Not surprisingly, the No. 1 reason for back surgery is pain relief, especially relief of chronic back pain refractory to all other treatments or of severe pain due to acute trauma. Back pain can result from a number of conditions, including compression of the spinal nerves, herniated discs and fractures of the vertebrae. Moreover, back surgery is also commonly performed for tumor removal, whether the tumors cause pain or not.
One of the most common types of back and spine surgery is spinal fusion. Two or more vertebrae are joined together to reduce motion, enhance the stability of the spine and decrease the stretching of the nerves in the area.
Another type is disc replacement, in which the orthopedic surgeon removes the damaged disc and replaces it with an artificial disc. There’s also laminectomy, which involves removal of part of the bone overlying the spinal canal, thereby relieving pressure on the spinal nerves and reducing the pain.
One of the most exciting recent advances in back surgery is the emergency of minimally invasive spine surgery (MISS). This refers to surgery performed using lasers or under the guidance of endoscopes or computer-assisted navigation systems because substantially smaller incisions are required to be made compared to in open surgery. Not only is MISS generally faster than open surgery, it is also associated with a reduction in the post-operative hospital stay by almost half.
Risks and Benefits of Back Surgery
The benefits from back surgery are numerous and include a reduced need for pain medication, enhanced physical fitness, productivity and activity and improved mental status, all secondary to pain relief.
While the vast majority of back and spine operations are performed without any side effects or adverse events occurring, there is always a small risk of complications. These include excessive bleeding, formation of blood clots, infection and nerve injuries. Luckily, due to the advances made in the field of minimally invasive spine surgery, the risks of many of these complications have now been reduced even further.
In conclusion, back surgery is generally safe but not always necessary. To determine whether back surgery is the right choice right for you, schedule an appointment with your doctor or orthopedic surgeon today and discuss your options.