Spine and Spinal Cord Surgery – An overview
The spine is one of the most important and vital parts of the human body. It is made of interlocked vertebras with cushioning discs in between that allow the vertebras to move the upper body around. Each back bone (spine) vertebras have a space in between the bone structure that is aligned in a normal spine. This space (nerve canal) houses the spinal cord that attaches the brain to the various parts of the body through an intricate system of big and small nerves.
Any sort of damage to the spine (vertebras) or the spinal cord (nerve roots) can result in affecting the strength and range of movement of the spinal column. This can be caused due to a disease, disorder or a severe trauma. A break (fracture), or even a crack, in the vertebras (spine) can affect the functioning of the back bone as well as cause pain.
In such a situation the doctor will usually recommend a suitable spine or spinal cord surgery that can help relieve the painful and disabling symptoms.
Before taking a look at the types of spine and spinal cord surgeries, let us take a look at the benefits and possible risks involved in such type of procedure.
Benefits of Spine and Spinal Cord surgery
Usually, a spine or spinal cord surgery is chosen when other non-surgical methods of treatment have failed to successfully treat the painful and disabling symptoms of a spine or spinal cord disease or disorder.
Being aware of the benefits, as well as the possible risks, of a spine or spinal cord surgery can be very helpful in making the right choice of treatment for the patient.
The main aim of a spine and spinal cord surgery is to gain relief from the intense and debilitating back pain which results in affecting your normal daily activities. A spine or spinal cord surgery can give relief from the back pain as well as:
- Increasing your daily activity level
- Improving your overall physical fitness
- Improve your mood
- Decrease your need for painkillers and thus avoid their resultant side-effects
- Allows you to resume your work
- Increase your productivity at work
Risks of Spine and Spinal Cord Surgery
Majority of the patients experience no complications at all after a spine or spinal cord surgery. However, in very rare cases there is a risk of certain complications that may arise. The surgical procedure itself, like any other major surgery, carries certain risks, such as:
- Anesthetic reaction
- Blood clot
- Heart attack
- Recurrence of herniated disc
- Nerve damage
These risks are, however, seen in very rare cases as the surgeon takes every possible precaution to avoid them.
Let us take a look at the types of spine and spinal cord surgeries.
Types of Spine and Spinal Cord Surgeries
There are various causes that may damage or affect the spine and spinal cord. The type of surgical treatment for these depends mainly upon the type and severity of the disorder or disease that is affecting the spine or spinal cord.
These are the commonly performed spine and spinal cord surgeries:
Spinal Fusion –
This is the most commonly performed surgical treatment for relieving back pain. This surgical procedure requires joining a damaged vertebra to a healthy adjacent vertebra in order to restrict its motion. This restriction limits the stretching of nerves in the spine and relieves the pain.
In this surgery the surgeon removes the damaged parts of the vertebras, as well as the ligaments and the bone spurs, from the back in order to relieve the pressure from the spinal cord nerves which might have been causing pain and disability.
During this surgery the surgeon will remove the portion of the vertebra from the side in order to increase the point of exit for the nerve roots in the spinal column. This helps to relieve pressure from the nerve roots being caused by a restricted exit point.
A vertebral disc is a soft and wedge-shaped piece of cartilage that acts as a divider and cushion between the vertebras. At times, this vertebral disc may get dislocated and become herniated (bulging), which puts abnormal pressure on the spinal cord and the spinal nerves causing intense back pain. A discectomy might be recommended to relieve the pressure from the spinal nerves. This surgery involves removing all, or part, of the herniated disc. This helps to relieve the pressure from the spinal cord and results in decreasing the back pain immediately.
This surgery is nowadays performed using minimally invasive surgical techniques that require less surgical time and hospital stay as well as helping to recover from the surgery significantly faster.
Disc replacement –
In an artificial disc replacement surgery, the surgeon is required to remove the damaged inter-vertebral disc and replace it with an artificial disc implant device. This surgery is fast gaining popularity as a better alternate to spinal fusion as it allows for continued movement after the surgery.
Interlaminar implant –
This surgery is another alternative for spinal fusion surgery. In this the surgeon will implant a device (spacer), usually in the lower back, which helps to retain the movement in the spinal column while at the same time help to relieve the back pain. This spacer device is helpful in providing support in place of a damaged vertebral disc or vertebras while helping to ease the pressure from the spinal cord (nerve roots) and relieving the resultant pain.
Spine and spinal cord surgery is one of the most effective methods that help in relieving the intense back pain and disability that results from a damaged spine or compressed spinal cord.