Lumbar spine surgery is a surgical procedure that relieves pain caused by a narrowing of the spinal canal and compressing facet joints in the thoracic and lumbar spinal regions. Lumbar spine surgeries can be performed in many ways with varying degrees of success and complication rates.
Although most surgeons would like to perform lumbar spine surgery on every patient with sciatica, there are some cases where it may not be appropriate for your condition.
Types of Lumbar Spine Surgeries
There are three common types of lumbar spine surgeries used to treat the symptoms of sciatica. They are partial laminectomy, or segmental laminectomy, spinal fusion, and spinal decompression therapy/thoracolumbosacral fusion. All three aim to relieve the pressure on the nerve root by removing excess herniated vertebrae or discectomy (removal of a disc).
- Partial laminectomy
When it comes to partial laminectomy (segmental laminectomy), many variables can make this type of surgery inappropriate for your condition. It requires that an osteotomy be performed, which involves cutting into the bone at one end of a joint. It is hazardous in elderly patients because the vascularity of the bone becomes compromised. The osteotomy must be done at the right angle. Otherwise, it can cause more pain than before. Partial laminectomy is best suited for younger patients who are still growing.
- Spinal fusion
Spinal fusion involves removing disc material and stabilizing two vertebrae by inserting interbody graft or hardware between them. This procedure can cause significant loss of motion in the lower back, which may not suit every condition. Fusion is best suited for patients that have one or two degenerative discs that are herniating. Patients with a bulging disc have extra fluid that presses onto the nerve root and may not be suitable for fusion.
- Decompression/thoracolumbosacral fusion
Decompression/thoracolumbosacral fusion is most often performed on patients who have been diagnosed with a thoracic or lumbar herniated disc. This is often an indication of a more severe problem with the nerve roots, which do not respond well to traditional treatment methods.
The most common type of decompression involves removing bone from either side of the spine to remove pressure from the nerve root and spinal cord. This is done along with the bone removal procedures that have already been performed on the patient. The more invasive decompression procedure involves removing herniated bone from the entire spine to relieve pressure on the nerve roots. This more invasive procedure requires major surgery and recovery time.
The recovery after lumbar spine surgery can vary depending on what type of surgery was performed and the severity of the problem it was meant to treat. You will need to be in your bed or wheelchair for several weeks following your surgery as you recover from the effects of general anesthesia and your medication regimen.
After you recover from your anesthesia, you may be able to shower but still cannot move around without assistance. You may experience weakness and numbness in your legs, making it difficult to stand up from a lying position.
Long Term Issues
- Spinal fusions and laminectomies can cause significant loss of motion in the lower back, and this may not be suitable for every patient, depending on their situation.
- Some patients will be able to return to their normal activities within two months of surgery; others may need at least six months to a year before performing day-to-day activities that do not require bending or lifting.
Lumbar Spine Surgery Complications
Do many patients ask what could go wrong with a lumbar spine surgery? Minor complications can occur during and after lumbar spine surgeries. Some of the most common problems that may arise include:
- Nerve root damage
- Infection in your spine or surrounding tissue
- Spinal Cord Damage
Patients that experience severe infection require long-term antibiotic treatment and repeated surgical procedures to remove infected Graft or hardware. Surgery for damaged nerve roots is also hazardous. Patients need to seek medical care right away if they experience numbness, weakness, and allodynia (pain from touching an object).
Physical Limitations for People Who Had Lumbar Spine Surgeries
Patients who have undergone lumbar spine surgery should avoid activities that put excess pressure on the spine and cause additional damage. The most common activities to be avoided include:
- Lifting more than 20 pounds
- Sports that involve overhead action or high-speed movements
A lumbar spine surgery, even the most successful one, will change your life. You will need to follow your physician’s exercise guidelines or use an in-home medical equipment company to help you regain mobility and increase your range of motion. This can be difficult depending on your situation, but you will be able to return to normal activities with time. After lumbar spine surgery, you must plan on being in the hospital for several days.
After your surgery, you will be discharged from the hospital on a course of pain medications. You will also need to follow your physician’s guidelines for at-home care and physical therapy.
Modern Medical Devices for Lumbar Spine Surgery
In the last 50 years, there have been many advances in the field of lumbar spine surgery. More and more surgeons are now using minimally invasive techniques for lumbar spine surgeries. These minimally invasive techniques require smaller incisions and less postoperative pain. S
everal new devices, for example, modern and exclusive medical devices by Premia Spine, have been developed to help improve the prognosis for those suffering from a compressed nerve root, those who have arthritis, and those suffering from stenosis.
Whether it is done through an open procedure or via minimally invasive means, Lumbar spine surgery can provide patients with significant relief from their back pain. The severity of the problem will determine the best treatment option for each patient’s particular situation. These procedures can cause long-term restrictions to mobility. Still, with time and consideration to proper exercise and physical therapy, most patients can resume their normal activities within several months post-surgery.