Spinal Stenosis Surgery - Things You Should Consider
As with any surgical procedure, undergoing spinal stenosis surgery is a significant decision to make. You may have been suffering from the symptoms associated with the condition - typically pain, numbness, weakness, and tingling that can affect the upper or lower body - for weeks or months, and the idea of surgery may seem like your only hope left to relieve your discomfort. If your doctor has suggested elective surgical intervention, it's likely you are one of few patients for whom surgery is, in fact, a final treatment option. That said, it's important that you carefully weigh all of the advantages and disadvantages associated with spinal stenosis surgery before you sign any consent forms.
Open Spine vs. Minimally Invasive
Depending on your unique condition, age, and overall health, your doctor will suggest one of two approaches to spinal stenosis surgery to decompress your spinal cord or a nerve root affected by the narrowing ("stenosis") of the spinal canal or a foramen. The first approach, open spine surgery, is a highly invasive option that requires a large incision in the neck or back, muscle dissection, and the removal of a large amount of spinal anatomy. This type of surgery can affect the stability of the spine overall, so spinal fusion, or the permanent affixing of two individual vertebrae with screws, rods, and bone grafts, may also be performed. As a highly invasive operation, open spine surgery carries with it elevated risks of bleeding, infection, nerve damage, and an extended recovery period, as well as the possibility for the development of new or worsened symptoms.
Minimally invasive spinal stenosis surgery, on the other hand, is a much less daunting surgical option. This type of procedure involves an endoscope, small surgical tools, and sometimes a laser, which are fed through telescoping tubes inserted into a small incision near the affected area of the spine. Musculature and surrounding soft tissues are left relatively undisturbed, and only minimal disc material, ligamentous tissue, or bone material are removed, leaving the spinal anatomy largely intact. As a result, risks factors like bleeding and infection are reduced, and the recovery period is usually much faster than that of open spine surgery.
Check with Your Doctor
If you feel confused about which spinal stenosis surgery option you should choose, consult your doctor. He or she can help you consider factors like your occupation, lifestyle, and activity level to help you decide. It should be noted that not every spinal stenosis patient is a candidate for a minimally invasive procedure, so be sure to thoroughly discuss this surgical option with your doctor and consider looking into additional medical opinions.