Spine surgery is a major surgery that is often the last option for most surgeons due to the complexity and risks involved. Any slight mistakes or accidents can cause permanent paralysis of the body depending on the affected nerves in the spine. Surgeons will often recommend alternative treatments such as medication and physical therapy and when left with no other choices will they opt for spine surgery. With such high risks involved, what are some orthopaedic conditions that require spinal surgery to be carried out?
A herniated disc occurs when one of the spinal disc in the vertebrae slips or ruptures, causing the soft disc materials to flow out of the disc. When the disc flows out, the movement and material can pinch on the surrounding nerves, causing pain and numbness. A discectomy will need to be carried out to remove this herniated disc that is pinching onto the nerve. A modern evolution is the microdiscectomy which uses high definition microscope to see better and is minimally invasive, reducing the risk.
Foraminotomy is performed to relieve pressure from an affected nerve in the spine. This pressure is caused either by bone fragments, scar tissues or excess ligament development in the spinal area, causing it to press against the spine and causing pain and numbness. Foraminotomy will open up the back where the nerve roots leave the spinal canal, reducing the chances of pinching.
As the name suggests, spinal fusion aims to join 2 or more vertebrae together to prevent excessive movement which may pinch onto the nerves. Loose vertebrae can press against the nerves during movement, causing pain and numbness. It will also prevent the surrounding soft tissues from stretching. Spinal fusion is based on the simple logic of “if it doesn’t move, it doesn’t hurt”. Similarly to welding in metals, spinal fusion will fuse the vertebrae together. This process however will reduce some flexibility in the spine but this is very minimal.
Artificial lumbar disc replacement
Artificial disc replacement is a new surgical process that uses man-made biomaterials to replace the affected intervertebral disc. The purpose of the spinal disc is to cushion the shock and distribute it evenly. Since the spinal discs do not regenerate as easily as our skin, biomaterials will need to be used to restore flexibility and motion.
Above are 4 orthopaedic conditions that warrant the usage of spinal surgery. Although the risks are there, medical advances have significantly reduced the risks and recovery time. Nonetheless, the risks are still present and serious considerations must be made before deciding on such major surgery as this.