Is Back Surgery Safe? First, Get Acquainted with Your Spine…
Awake Spinal Fusion is a minimally invasive procedure that doesn’t require general anesthesia. Instead of a lengthy hospital stay, you’re up and about in just a few hours.
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Is Back Surgery Safe? First, Get Acquainted with Your Spine…

By Dr. Alok Sharan
Aug. 19, 2022

What’s the risk of having back surgery? Given today’s methods and technologies, it’s actually a safe procedure. As long as it’s done properly, the risks are minimal. It’s much easier to minimize your risks in 2022 and beyond with minimally invasive safe spine surgery techniques.

You should consider a number of factors before choosing spine surgery. First and foremost is whether non-surgical options have been exhausted. One of the first set of options doctors try with patients before recommending surgery is pain medication, injections, or physical therapy.

Another thing to consider is your ability to handle local anesthesia, which is actually much better than general anesthesia, where you are completely unconscious and unaware of the procedure. To determine your anesthesia readiness, your doctor may order some tests.

At the end of the day, you shouldn’t make the decision to have safe back surgery too quickly. To get the most benefit out of minimally invasive spine surgery, talk to your doctors and surgeons extensively.

If you’re told that you are a good candidate for surgery, you’ll probably have a lot of questions about the procedure, your condition, and what to expect. Spinal surgery has only become safer as more advanced and minimally invasive methods are created and used on patients. But there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. Based on your specific condition, your doctor will help you decide what’s best.

We’re here to help! Please arm yourself with information before diving into your decision.

First, Get Acquainted with Your Spine

The spine is made up of your vertebrae, discs, and nervous system elements. Stacking your vertebrae together creates the length of your spine. In the center of these bones, there’s a channel that houses your spinal cord and nerve roots. You can bend and twist because these bones interlock, yet they still move somewhat independently.

There’s a disc between each vertebra. The outside of these discs are strong and rubbery, and the inside is jelly-like. Discs keep the vertebrae from rubbing together while maintaining a bit of movement.

Your spine’s nervous system elements are made up of spinal cord and nerve roots. The spinal cord is like a network cable, letting your body talk to your brain. It’s covered in a tough sac. People don’t realize that the spinal cord usually ends at the upper lumbar spine, leaving only the nerve roots below. Spinal surgeries in the mid-to-upper back region or neck involve the spinal cord, but lower-back surgeries usually only involve nerve roots and are historically a little more risky. At every spinal segment, two nerve roots come out (left and right). A human spine has 33 segments, of which 24 are mobile (movement oriented).

As described in this medical university snapshot of one’s spine, “The normal spine has an S-like curve when looking at it from the side. This allows for an even distribution of weight. The S-curve helps a healthy spine withstand all kinds of stress. The cervical spine (neck) curves slightly inward; the thoracic spine (mid-to-upper back) curves outward; and the lumbar (lower back) curves inward.” This means that even though the lower portion of your spine holds most of the body’s weight, each segment relies upon the strength of the others to function properly.

One more important fact: There’s a small recessed area at the top and bottom of each vertebral arch. There are two gaps where the recesses meet (at the point where your vertebrae meet) — on the left and right sides of the spine. Through these gaps, spinal nerves exit the spinal canal. The spinal cord thins out as it goes down the spine because of the branching of the spinal nerves. Electrical signals are sent from the brain to muscles of the skeleton and internal organs via the spinal cord. Likewise, the spinal cord transmits sensory information from the skin, muscles, joints and internal organs to the brain. It’s all part of the central nervous system connected to your brain.

Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery: What You Should Know

There are always risks associated with any type of surgery on one’s body, no matter what procedure is performed.

Nonetheless, back-pain sufferers are increasingly educating themselves about modern techniques in minimally invasive outpatient spinal fusions, which is leading to more proactive decisions and successful outcomes. In today’s medical world, professionals are open to adopting newer technologies and innovations. Spine surgeons have been able to perform more delicate procedures using less invasive techniques thanks to advancements in surgical technology.

With minimally invasive surgery, a surgeon uses tiny incisions and special instruments to do the same surgery that used to take much longer and had larger incisions. As a result, you’ll suffer from much less surgical trauma, less blood loss, and even less time under anesthesia. Some of the most common of today’s procedures are (including surgery where you remain awake the entire time):

  • Spinal fusion — Spinal fusions may be necessary for certain injuries and conditions. A solid bone column is created by bridging two vertebrae. Usually spinal fusions are done to repair damaged vertebrae, remove discs, or correct structural problems such as scoliosis.
  • Laminectomy — When there’s spinal stenosis or another condition that narrows the spinal canal, a laminectomy is performed. As a result of removing the roof or “lamina” of the spinal canal, the nerves and tissues can move freely again, relieving pressure on the spinal cord.
  • Discectomy — This is performed when you have an injured disc in your spine that can rupture, bulge, slip, or herniate. Besides pain, it can press on your nerves and spinal cord, leading to incontinence or even nerve dysfunction. A discectomy relieves pressure and relieves symptoms such as pain and numbness by removing the offending disc or discs. Also, a spinal fusion can sometimes be done with a discectomy.

Safety First: Review All Your Options

The most important question at the end of each back-pain day is: “When might back surgery be a good idea?”.

Just remember, there are different opinions about when to operate, what kind of surgery to do, and whether surgery is necessary for some spine conditions versus others. Diagnosing and treating back and leg pain can be a complex process. We can help you make an informed and objective decision on safe spine surgery.

Whatever options are right for you, Awake Spinal Fusion can provide answers to all of your pressing back-pain questions so you can make an informed choice about treatment and/or surgery. Empower yourself with the right information and advice to do what’s right for your spine.