Get to Know Your Spine Surgeon
Do you know your spine surgeon? Surgical treatment of patients with spinal conditions (neck and back pain) is challenging and it takes years of education, preparation and training. If you or anyone you know is considering spinal surgery, make sure you know your surgeon. Specifically, they should be a neurosurgeon or an orthopedic surgeon that is trained specifically for spine surgery. Recently, minimally invasive surgery has allowed non-surgeons(radiologists, anesthesiologists, pain management) to attempt performing spinal surgery with poor outcomes. Always do your homework and get to know your spine surgeon!
Questions to ask your Spine Surgeon
Are you board certified?
It’s important for a surgeon to be board certified in their area of expertise, as this shows they have a high level of knowledge in that specialization such as spine surgery / neurosurgery. Membership in a major organization, such as the American Board of Neurosurgeons, is also an indication of their qualifications to perform surgery.
How many times have you performed this surgery?
The more times a surgeon has performed a specific surgery, the better they will be at it. You can explore the risks and benefits of the surgery, and any short or long term side effects.
What will happen if I don’t have the operation?
When discussing the surgery, your surgeon should go over the risks, benefits, and alternative options beforehand. Some injuries get better over time, or pain may subside. However, waiting for certain operations may put your at risk for more long-term problems. Your surgeon should discuss any of those risks with you, and what options are available.
Types of Spine Surgery
Some of the most common back surgeries to treat spinal pain include:
Spinal laminectomy – This technique removes part of the lamina to decompress the spinal nerves. The goal is to reduce spinal stenosis (or narrowing of the spinal canal) to open up the spinal column and remove pressure on the nearby nerves.
Discectomy – In this operation part or all of the spinal disc is removed to relieve pressure that it may be putting on nerves, usually due to a bulging or herniated disc.
Foraminotomy – This surgery enlarges the area in your spinal column where nerves exit to allow your nerves to be decompressed.
Spinal Fusion – As it sounds, in this operation the vertebrae in your spine are fused together, usually with bone grafts and metal plates / screws to ensure they stay fused. The recovery period in this surgery is long due to the need for the spine to stabilize and heal after surgery.
Artificial Disc Replacement – In this case a problematic disc is removed and replaced by an artificial disc. Replacing the disc is a good alternative to spinal fusion for those looking to avoid the longer recovery times and complications.
Laser Spine Surgery – Laser spine surgery, or Percutaneous Laser Disc Decompression (PLDD), is a procedure involving a needle being inserted to your herniated disc, and decompressing it with heat from a laser. It’s non-invasive and doesn’t require any cutting, so the recovery period is very short with few risks involved. It’s a good alternative to open discectomy or spinal fusion.
Spinal Stenosis Surgery
The surgeries that treat spinal stenosis are foraminotomy, laminectomy or laminotomy. Spinal stenosis is a narrowing of the spaces in your spine, which put pressure on nerves traveling through these spaces. It occurs most often in the lower back and neck.
When pressures is put on your nerves there is a resulting pain, possibly numbness or tingling and muscle weakness. When these symptoms are more serious, it’s important to talk to a doctor specializing in neurological conditions to figure out the best treatment options.
Neurosurgeons Near You
To find out what your diagnosis may be, and what course you should take when treating the symptoms, you can find a spine doctor near you through your primary doctor. When dealing with the spine an open MRI can be taken to further diagnose the exact cause of any pain, discomfort, or lack of mobility.
Spine doctors are specialists who deal with neurological disorders and spine problems, so you can be sure they have the expertise to properly diagnose and treat you. There are neurosurgeons available at the Laser Spine Center who have decades of experience resolving spine issues.