Spines surgery is more challenging compared to other joint replacement operations and require high level of expertise to perform. They are only advised in case of extreme pain as an elective surgery; an injury; or disease which fails to non-operative treatments. It is often treated as the last resort to your back ailment.
If your orthopedic doctor has recommended a spinal surgery, it is time to be aware and well-informed about the procedure and the treatment that you would undergo.
Who can undergo spine surgery?
Age is no more a determinant factor for spine surgeries as studies suggest more and more people at younger age are complaining acute spine problems. But generally elderly patients above 60 years of age with otherwise medically sound health can be advised for surgery as the last resort. Sports persons with spine injury or accidental cases are often treated through surgery. The decision to undergo spine surgery is solely based your intensity of pain, discomfort in daily activities, and disability. Spine surgery is often considered to be elective that is a way to enhance your ability to function and relieve acute back pain.
What is a spine surgery procedure?
Advancement in surgical techniques and implants has developed spine surgery procedure as a renewed hope for patients suffering from acute spine problems from many years. With the procedure getting safer and faster, patients are successfully advised spine surgery.
Usually, there are six types of spine surgeries.
Spinal fusion –
In this one of the most common surgery for back pain, your surgeon joins the spinal bones/vertebrae together reducing spinal motion of your painful vertebral segment. This in turn reduces the pain generated from that particular joint. Spinal fusion is used to treat severe low back pain caused due to degenerative disc disease.
In this type of surgery, a part of bone or ligaments are removed in operation, relieving the pressure on spinal nerves. Sometimes spinal fusion is also performed along with laminectomy based on the patient’s report.
During foraminotomy, bones at the sides of vertebrae are cut to give the space at the opening where nerve roots exit the spine. This relieves the pressure on the nerves that were being compressed, thereby relieving pain.
In this, a part of the bone which presses a nerve root or spinal cord, causing pain, is removed. It is usually done in patients reporting slipped/ruptured disc.
Disc replacement –
The surgery is performed for treating painful lumbar and cervical disc. It involves replacement of the damaged spinal disc with the artificial one made up of metal or combination of metal and plastic.
Interlaminar implant –
If you have been facing the pain or pinch in the back, since more than a year, while walking or standing a little long, doctors recommend interlaminar implant. A U-shaped device is placed in the spine to keep it aligned and stable protecting the spinal nerves.
Complications in spine surgery
Complications in a spine surgery are same as in any other surgical procedures. You must understand that the each kind spine surgery is unique for each patient. The complications, if any, differ with the complexity of the surgery and the individual patient’s medical health.
As per a study, the complication rates range from 5% to 19% (for cervical), 7% to 18% (for thoracic), and 4% to 14% (for lumbar) in each type of spine surgery.
Before undergoing the spine surgery, you should discuss with your surgeon about the possible complications that might occur and how will they be treated. Your orthopedic doctor would take care by continuous monitoring, medications, and precautionary measures.
Advised spinal surgery? Second opinion is necessary
A correct diagnose is necessary for a successful spine surgery. Once your orthopedic recommends a spinal surgery, we would always advice you to take a second opinion with other orthopedic surgeon and neurologist. Be free to ask all your queries, doubts, and know related risk or expected outcome of the surgery.
After finally deciding over the surgery, ensure your spine surgeon has good experience and record of successful spine surgeries as these surgeries are complicated and require expert team of surgeons.
Recovery after spine surgery
Generally three to four months are required for the bones to heal post-operation. A complete healing and back to normal activities may even take six months to a year. Like any other orthopedic surgeries, in spine surgery too pain management, medications, and physiotherapy are extremely important. The recovery duration for your spine surgery depends upon –
- The type of surgery undergone
- Age and sex
- Your medical health condition
- Your muscle strength and control
- Your adherence to the medications for pain management
- Your adherence to the physical therapy proposed by physiotherapist
More you follow the recommended exercises, medication and precautions, better and sooner would be the recovery process.
When can you get back to work after surgery?
It is advisable not to be tempted to stretch your physical activity limits even if you are not experiencing the pain in the back. Go slow and steady with your activities to regain strength of the back muscles and bones after the surgery.
If your work is not strenuous and does not require much physical movement you can always get start to work within six months of surgery. Always follow your doctor’s advice, as he can guide you through the precautions while getting back to work and other activities like bending, walking, driving, etc.
Precautions after surgery
- No smoking at all – smoking is the most harmful activity that can harm your bones. Nicotine inhibits the bone fusion and healing
- Maintain correct posture while sitting, standing and lying
- Follow your physiotherapist’s advice while stretching, bending, lifting weights, or driving etc
- Continue to do your recommended exercises as per your doctor’s advice
- Eat calcium rich healthy diet
- Control weight gain
Thousands of patients successfully undergo spine surgery around the world. It is a boon for the people facing continuous debilitating and terrible back pain over the years. Spine surgery can help you return to routine activities in life minus the pain. The operative treatment has reported over 87% of relief from pain and discomfort within a year of process.
Remember to be positive and follow your orthopedic, neurologist, and the physiotherapist instructions to a letter.