Spine Series - Blog 3: Answering the Big Question: Do I Need Spinal Surgery?

Spinal surgery can seem daunting, but compared to a life of chronic back pain, it is a safe and effective choice for many patients desiring a better quality of life.

You’re asking, “Do I need spinal surgery?” and we’d like to help answer that question for you.

To begin, we have some questions of our own:

  • Do you have a severe curvature of the spine or any spinal deformity that is getting progressively worse?
  • Is your pain severe, chronic, and/or resulting in immobility?

  • Have you already exhausted all possible nonsurgical treatment options, with no improvement in your condition?

If you answered ‘yes’ to one or more of the questions above, then it is likely that you will need spinal surgery at some point - if not now, then in the future. However, only a qualified, orthopaedic spine specialist can properly diagnose your case, offer appropriate treatment options, and determine whether surgery is indeed necessary.

Three Benefits of Spinal Surgery

In the case that you do end up needing spinal surgery, here are three important points to keep in mind. Assuming you are working with a qualified surgeon, spine procedures are:

  1. Safe & Effective: Spine surgery may sound intimidating, but advances in technology and surgical precision have made dozens of procedures not only safe, but extremely effective for addressing a variety of spine conditions.

  2. Commonly Performed: At Rothman Orthopaedic Institute alone, nearly 3,000 spine surgeries are performed each year. Patients routinely progress through recovery from surgery without complication and find pain relief and restored mobility on the other side.

  3. Available Near You: Spinal surgery certainly isn’t something to have done just anywhere. Fortunately for patients in the greater Philadelphia area and throughout southern New Jersey, a nationally recognized orthopaedic provider is readily accessible with over 20 locations around the region.

Do I Need Spinal Surgery?

Now that you are aware of the benefits of spinal surgery, it’s time to determine whether you truly need to take the surgical route. When you see your spine physician, they will likely go through a series of steps prior to ever recommending surgery.

The Path Toward Spinal Surgery:

First, the initial visit with a spine specialist will include a thorough physical examination and complete review of your medical history.

Next, the doctor will request additional tests based on the information he or she recorded from the initial visit. These tests may include an x-ray, MRI, CAT scan, or a bone scan.

The next step involves the recommendation of a comprehensive, non-operative treatment plan based on conservative measures.

Once the treatment plan has been executed, if the patient is still suffering from pain and has not experienced improvement in their condition, the surgeon will likely begin the discussion about a surgical solution.

Common Types of Spine Surgeries

If your physician determines that the answer to your question, “Do I need spinal surgery?” is yes, then you may be looking at one of the following possibilities, depending on the nature of your condition:

Decompression & Fusion: Because many spinal issues, especially herniated discs, form in front of the spinal cord (anteriorly), surgeons often prefer to do a decompression of the spinal cord from the front of the body, although this procedure can be performed posteriorly as well. During the procedure, the affected disc is removed and a bone graft is used to fill the space between the vertebrae and stabilize the spine in that area.

Laminectomy: This surgical procedure is most often performed to treat leg pain related to herniated discs, spinal stenosis, and other related conditions. The goal of a laminectomy is to relieve pressure on the spinal cord or spinal nerve by widening the spinal canal. This is done by removing or trimming the lamina (roof) of the vertebrae to create more space for the nerves. This procedure can be done with or without decompression and fusion.

Discectomy/Partial Discectomy: This surgery involves removal of a herniated disc (and sometimes a small piece of bone) for the purpose of relieving the compression of a nerve. It requires a small incision in the back and it can be done under either local, spinal or general anesthesia.

Foraminotomy: This procedure is generally used for disc herniations off to one side, but is also effective in relieving arm pain caused by nerve pressure from arthritic bone spurs. The incision is made in the back of the neck and the opening through which the nerve passes is widened. Any bone spurs and bulging disc material is removed.

Disc Replacement Surgery: During this procedure, the affected disc is removed completely and the empty space is heightened before the artificial disc device is implanted into the prepared disc space.

Do I need spinal surgery? Only a reputable orthopaedic spine specialist can help you answer that question. Visit us here or contact us at 1-800-321-9999 for more information.

We answer additional spine-related questions for you in the articles referenced below:

Spine Series - Blog 1: Could I Have a Spine Condition? Here’s How You Know...

Common Spine Conditions

How Do I Know if I Have a Spine Condition?

Should I See a Spine Physician?

Spine Series - Blog 2: Have You Tried These Treatments for Spine Conditions?

Nonsurgical Spine Treatment

Best Spine Physician

Spine Series - Blog 3: Answering the Big Question: Do I Need Spinal Surgery?

Spinal Surgery Recovery

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