Thursday, April 16, 2009

Exploring Back Surgery - Part I

As many of your are aware, I am the founder of Minnesota Disability and Atkinson Law Offices where I offer nearly two decades of experience handling workers compensation matters. What you may not know is that like some of you, I have suffered from a workers compensation injury that resulted in back surgery.

Though my surgery has had many positive results, I unfortunately have ongoing complications. In this series of articles I want to explore the types of back surgeries that may be recommended to those of you with chronic back pain in an attempt to answer some of your questions. Surgery is a very serious procedure that can have profound benefits for certain individuals. However, surgery is something that has the potential for downsides and careful consideration must be taken before undertaking the same.

In Minnesota there are currently 6 forms of back surgery that are being performed in most major hospitals. They range from the most common procedure, diskectomy, to the newest and least well know, the artificial disk.

Diskectomy. This involves removal of the herniated portion of a disk to relieve pressure on a nerve. It's done as an open surgery, and typically involves full or partial removal of the back portion of a vertebra (lamina) to access the ruptured disk.

Laminectomy. This procedure involves the removal of the lamina that overlays the spinal canal. It enlarges the spinal canal and is performed to relieve nerve pressure caused by spinal stenosis.

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

Intradiscal electrothermal therapy (IDET). In this treatment, doctors insert a needle through a catheter into the disk. The needle is heated to a high temperature for up to 20 minutes. The heat thickens and seals the disk wall, reducing disk bulge and the related spinal nerve irritation.

Vertebroplasty. During this procedure, your surgeon injects bone cement into compressed vertebrae. For fractured and compressed vertebrae, this procedure can help stabilize fractures and relieve pain. With a similar procedure — called kyphoplasty — a balloon-like device is inserted to expand compressed vertebrae before bone cement is injected.

Artificial disks. Implanted artificial disks are a treatment alternative to spinal fusion for painful movement between two vertebrae due to a degenerated or injured disk. These relatively new devices are still being studied, however, so it's not yet clear what role they might play as a back surgery option.