Types of Back Surgery

Although back surgery is not typically the first treatment option for those who suffer from chronic, debilitating back pain, there are times when surgery is warranted and likely to produce a helpful result.  In general, there are two main reasons to undergo back surgery: to relieve compression of the spinal cord or nerves and to treat painful degenerative discs.  Read on for a list of the most common types of back surgery.

  1. Spinal fusion.  In spinal fusion surgery, bone grafts are added to the spine to create a solid bone bridge between two vertebrae.  This eliminates movement in this section of the spine.  Fusion may be indicated to treat spondylolisthesis (a type of spinal instability), spinal fractures, or degenerative disc disease.  A variety of different surgical approaches and techniques are used in spinal fusions, including anterior lumber corpectomy and fusion, anterior lumbar interbody fusion (ALIF), posterior lumbar fusion, and transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion (TLIF).
  2. Disc replacement.  Disc replacement is an alternative to spinal fusion.  It is a relatively new procedure in which an injured or degenerated disc is removed from the body and an artificial disc is inserted in its place.
  3. Laminectomy.  In this procedure, the bone that protects the spinal canal is removed to relieve pressure on the nerves.  It is often used to treat spinal stenosis.  Microlaminectomy is a minimally invasive version of this surgery. 
  4. Discectomy and microdiscectomy.  A discectomy involves removing a portion of a herniated disc to alleviate the pain due to a compressed nerve.  A microdiscetomy utilizes a very small incision to remove the herniated part of a disc.
  5. Vertebroplasty.  This procedure involves inserting a small amount of cement into a fractured vertebra to help mobilize and strengthen the spine.  It is typically used to treat spinal fractures caused by osteoporosis.  Kyphoplasty is a similar procedure that includes using a tiny balloon to restore the compressed vertebra to its original size before injecting the cement-like material.
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