Advantages and Disadvantages of Fusing Vertebrae

From physical therapy to prescription painkillers, there are many ways to treat back pain. Whether or not to have spine surgery can be a difficult decision, even though success rates for many common procedures have improved greatly with advances in technology. Being as informed as possible about intricacies of spine surgery can help you make a decision that’s right for you.

Spine Surgery Isn’t for Everyone

While more than 30 million Americans experience some type of back pain at any given time, spine surgery is rarely a necessity. In fact, anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and a few days rest often provide relief. Even when back pain is chronic, just five percent of patients truly require corrective surgery, with spine surgery only an option when:

• Pain is becoming increasingly more severe
• Non-surgical treatments aren’t effective
• There is a confirmed source of the pain

Procedures Are Often Minimally Invasive

The current trend in spine surgery is a move towards procedures that are more minimally invasive than the same procedures were even a decade ago. Advances in techniques and technology have led to surgeries that can be performed with smaller incisions and less disruption to muscles and tissues to reach the part of the spine causing discomfort. Common benefits of minimally invasive spine procedures include:

• Reduced healing times
• Fewer complications
• Less dependence on painkillers

Hospital Stays Are Often Brief

Patients undergoing minimally invasive spine surgeries can often go home the same day of the procedure. While some precautions may be necessary, such as having a little extra help around the house for a week or two, recovery can usually take place at home. Additionally, a brief hospital stay also reduces the risk of acquiring a post-surgical infection.

Fusion Isn’t Always Necessary

Fusion surgery is still the most common type of spine surgery performed. However, it’s not the only surgical option. A microdiscectomy, for instance, is a less-invasive procedure where only the herniated, or damaged, portion of the disc is removed. Typically an option for patients with disc herniation or sciatica, microdiscectomies do not require the use of screws and implants. Artificial disc replacement with mobi-c is another increasingly viable alternative to fusion surgery.

In most cases, there is no urgency to proceed with spine surgery. Therefore, if you are considering spine surgery to relieve your back pain, take your time to consider your options, ask questions and seek multiple opinions. For more information on spine procedures, please call The Spine Institute Center in Beverly Hills at (310) 828-7757 and request an in-person consultation.