Spinal decompression is a surgical procedure that relieves pain caused from pressure exerted through the compression of the spinal cord or related spinal nerves. The pressure may be induced due to impaction of the bone or disc material. Spinal decompression can be performed through advanced techniques such as minimally invasive spine surgery.
A tear of an intervertebral disc with herniation may induce pressure on the neural tissues such as spinal cord, spinal nerves and nerve roots. This can cause pain, numbness and muscle weakness in the back, neck, arms, and legs. Impaction of the neural tissues may occur due to conditions such as spinal stenosis, spondylolisthesis, and occasionally spinal tumor.
In such cases, your spinal surgeon may recommend different procedures depending upon your pathological and neurological condition, degree of spine alteration and your medical history.
Extensively used spinal decompression procedures include minimally invasive lumbar discectomy, lumbar laminectomy, and cervical foraminotomy.
Each spinal decompression procedure has its specific steps, but the common steps involved are as follows:
- An incision is made over the affected vertebra (e)
- Soft tissues such as skin, muscles and fat are smoothly pulled apart to expose the vertebra (e)
- Different sources such as vertebral elements, bone spurs, disc material or any other source causing compression are safely removed
- Soft tissues are gently placed back to their respective positions and finally the incision is closed
In some cases, spinal decompression procedure may be combined with a spinal fusion procedure. This involves additional placement of bone grafts between the affected vertebrae to stimulate the growth of bone to fuse the two vertebral bodies. The placed graft material act as binding agent and helps to retain the normal height of disc. With time, the bone graft ultimately grows to join and stabilize the affected vertebrae.
Due to advancements in technology, spinal decompression can also be performed through a minimally invasive procedure. The minimally invasive spinal decompression surgery has several advantages as compared to the traditional open method. Advantages include:
- Muscles can be easily separated from the affected spine area instead of cut
- Small incision is required that yields a smaller scar
- Less surgical discomfort to the patient
- Patient may go home on the same day of the surgery
Discuss with your surgeon to determine whether you are a candidate for minimally invasive spinal decompression surgery.
Post-operative care and recovery time
Patients may find correction in some symptoms soon after the surgery, whereas other symptoms may gradually recover with time. Your surgeon may recommend specific post-operative instructions for a fast and successful recovery.
The recovery time depends upon the treatment plan of the individuals. Usually spinal decompression procedure is performed on an outpatient basis. Patients have to follow different rehabilitation protocols based on their condition and the type of activity they want to participate in after surgery.
Risks and complications
Although spinal decompression surgery is a safe procedure, as with any surgery complications may arise under certain circumstances. The possible complications associated with spinal decompression surgery are as follows:
- Nerve damage
- Blood clots
- Blood loss
- Bowel or bladder problems
- Incomplete fusion of the bone graft (spinal fusion)
Please consult your physician for a complete list of indications, warnings, precautions, adverse effects, clinical results and other important medical information that pertains to a spinal decompression procedure.