Back Surgery Options

Back Surgery Information

Back Surgery Options

When should you discuss back surgery options with your physician?

Back pain is extremely common and surgery often fails to relieve the pain. However, there could come a time when back surgery is appropriate for your situation. You and your doctor should thoroughly discuss all back surgery options before a final decision is made.

It’s been reported that 90% of people who experience back pain will get better either without treatment or with conservative therapy for four to six weeks. A very small percentage of back pain sufferers, only 5%, will remain incapacitated longer than three months.

In most situations, a surgical procedure won't be considered unless conservative measures have failed, and even then surgery is not often indicated. Back surgery is usually reserved for times when spinal nerves are compressed, causing numbness along the back of your leg.

Many types of problems can reduce the amount of space in the spine, causing nerves to become pinched. The disks separating the bones in your spine can also bulge or rupture (herniate), which can irritate nearby nerves. However, many people with bulging disks don’t experience any pain.

When it’s been determined that back surgery is suitable for your condition, then it’s time to investigate back surgery options. One of the following options could be recommended by your physician:

Discectomy. The herniated portion of a disk is removed to relieve irritation and inflammation of a nerve. This procedure is done as an open surgery and typically involves full or partial removal of the back portion of a vertebra to reach the ruptured disk.

Laminectomy. The bone overlying the spinal canal is removed. This procedure is performed to relieve nerve pressure and irritation.

Fusion. Spinal fusion permanently connects two or more bones in your spine. It can relieve pain by adding stability to a spinal fracture. It’s occasionally used to eliminate painful motion between vertebrae that can result from a degenerated or injured disk.

Vertebroplasty. During this procedure, your surgeon injects bone cement into compressed vertebrae. This procedure can help stabilize fractures and relieve pain.

Artificial disks. Implanted artificial disks are an alternative treatment to spinal fusion to relieve painful movement between two vertebrae due to a degenerated or injured disk.

Your first step on the path to determining if back surgery can benefit your particular circumstances is to find a doctor you trust. The approach to finding the right doctor is to ask a lot of questions. At least a second opinion, and possibly a third or fourth opinion, might be required before you feel comfortable to proceed with back surgery.

When the time comes that you are seriously considering back surgery, take a family member or close friend with you as you discuss back surgery options with doctors. It can be very helpful to have more than one pair of ears listening to the doctor’s opinions.

It’s important that you discuss potential risks, complications, and benefits of back surgery options with your doctor prior to surgery, and that you are comfortable relying on your physician's recommendation.

Your doctor can determine whether you are a suitable candidate for a particular procedure; however, the final decision is yours.

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