The experienced spine surgeons at UM BWMC treat conditions that occur on all parts of the spine - cervical (neck), thoracic (upper back and abdomen) and lumbar (lower back).
Many patients who experience neck and back pain are having symptoms of degenerative disease. Degenerative disease is the result of wear and tear on the body and aging, which causes cells to increasingly deteriorate over time. These degenerative disorders may include disc disease, sciatica, disc herniation, spinal stenosis, scoliosis, spondylolisthesis, Myelopathies, tumors and fractures.
Spinal deformities, also known as curves of the spine, can happen as a child or as a degenerative process as you get older. Some spinal deformities that require treatment are:
- Spinal fractures - if left untreated, spinal fractures can lead to subsequent fractures and will continue to cause stooped posture and potentially chronic pain
- Kyphosis - curvature of the spine or "humpback"
- Scoliosis - curvature of the spine examined from the patient's anterior or posterior
- Spinal tumors
- Failed fusions/revisions
Our physicians always begin the treatment process with non-surgical measures, which can often control pain. Non-operative techniques that treat spinal conditions and disorders are:
- Physical therapy
- Spinal injections
When Surgery is Needed
The major reason people undergo spinal surgery is to relieve intolerable pain. Non-surgical measures can often control the pain. However, if the pain persists to the point of a patient not being able to function properly, if their quality of life is majorly impacted, or if weakness or other neurological problems develop, surgery may be necessary to relieve the symptoms.
Whenever possible, our surgeons use minimally invasive surgical techniques. Minimally invasive surgeries consist of a small incision to reach the site of the spine that needs correcting. This technique may allow our patients to recover more quickly, have less scarring and bleeding, and have a shorter stay in the hospital. These surgeries include balloon kyphoplasty, vertebroplasty, facet fusions, microdiscectomy and interspinous process spacers.
A spinal fusion is a bony bridge between at least two vertebrae in your spine. Normally, each vertebra moves within certain limits in relationship to its neighbors. In spinal disease, the movement may become excessive and painful, or the vertebrae may become unstable and move out of alignment putting pressure on the spinal nerves.
In cases like this, surgeons build bony bridges between the vertebrae using pieces of bone, called bone graft. The bone graft may be obtained either from the patient's pelvis or from a bone bank. The bone graft heals and unites to the adjacent bones and encourages new bone growth, solidifying the fusion. Spine surgeons often use plates or rods to protect the bone graft and stabilize the spine while the fusion heals.
Cervical and Lumbar Laminectomy
A herniated disc and/or arthritis in the spine can cause a “pinched nerve.” The discs are shock absorbers between each vertebra and are close to nerves, which originate in the spine and travel down to the arms and legs. If the disc is damaged, part of it may bulge, herniate or even burst free into the spinal canal, putting pressure on the nerve and causing pain, numbness or weakness in the legs or arms. Bone spurs caused by arthritis can do the same things.
The discs or bone spurs putting pressure on your nerve must be removed in a surgical procedure called a laminectomy (cervical laminectomy is performed on the neck; lumbar laminectomy is performed on the lower back). This procedure is done by making an incision, moving the muscles covering your spine to the side and making a small window into your spinal canal. The nerve is exposed, moved aside and protected: the protruding disc or bone spur is then removed. This decompresses the nerve and in most cases leads to rapid improvement in the nerve pain, numbness and/or weakness.