Facts about Spinal Surgery - Types of Back Surgery - Health Education - DesiMD Healthcare - India
Health Education

Know your Facts about Spinal Surgery

Dr.Amith Jain profile Authored by Dr.Amith Jain on 29 May 2014 - 11:13.

What is spinal or back surgery?

Spinal surgery or back surgery is performed as a last option to relieve severe back pain and leg pain, when all other treatment modalities fail to treat the condition. Severe back pain and leg pain may be a result of inappropriate body posture, injury to the spine or normal wear and tear. Often it is treated with medications, physiotherapy, home remedies like ice or heat and gentle massage.

However, spinal surgery can be a difficult choice to be made,depending on various health factors, diagnosis and patient’s approval. It’s not the first option for a patient, unless all other treatment options are ruled out.

What are the types of back surgery?

Following are the different types of back surgeries, which may be chosen according to the patient’s condition and suitability of the surgery.

Spinal fusion : It is the most common surgery performed to relieve the back pain. The procedure involves joining of vertebrae (spinal bones) to limit the stretching and motion.

Laminectomy : This surgery involves removing ligaments, bone spurs or any bone part of the spine which ultimately reduces pressure on spinal nerves. In short it decompresses the spinal roots.

Foraminotomy : This procedure involves widening of the space in the spine by cutting (making hole) out a bone from vertebrae and relive pressure from spinal root.

Discectomy: This procedure involves removing the disc part or whole disc, which is slipped and thus causing back pain. This surgery can also be performed as a part of other surgeries like spinal fusion and foraminatomy.

Disk replacement :This is a procedure of replacing a damaged disc by artificial disc to continue the spine motion.

Implant of U-shaped device : It is the procedure of placing an implant (U-shaped device) between the two bones in the spine which helps to maintain the height.

When is the back surgery needed?

Back surgery may be needed in the following cases:

  • Compression of the spinal nerves which is causing severe back pain or leg pain (sciatica).
  • Bulging or rupturing of the discs due to various reasons like an injury, severe enough to cause unbearable pain (PID).
  • Unstable spine due to fracture or injury to the spinal column or vertebrae.
  • Spinal tumors.
  • Osteoporosis causing fracture in the spinal column.
  • An abnormal curve in the spine (Scoliosis).
  • Round back,due to any deformity (Kyphosis).
  • Slipping of the vertebrae bone out of the normal posture (Spondylolisthesis).
  • Arthritis (wear and tear of joints, ligaments and disc) causing narrowing of the spinal column (Spinal stenosis).
  • Defected nerves causing an irritation/inflammation (Radiculopathy).
  • Normal wear and tear causing degeneration of the discs.

What to expect before, during and after the surgery?

Before the surgery:

  • Stop taking certain medicines including aspirin or other drugs, as suggested by the doctor which causes thinning of blood.
  • Stop smoking completely
  • Get a general health check-up done for fitness.
  • Doctor may prescribe an iron supplements if patient decides to donate his/her own blood to compensate the lost blood during the surgery.
  • Usually procedure is planned after seven days’ of a patient’s visit to the doctor with complaint of severe pain.
  • Patient is usually admitted to the hospital atleast 24 hours before the planned procedure.
  • Doctor’s will interview the patients and will check the medical history.
  • Patient will be prepared for the procedure and will be given anesthesia (general or spinal anesthesia).

During the surgery

  • The total time required for the procedure may vary from 1 to many hours (as per the problem and complications).
  • Any of the suitable type of surgery (as discussed in types of surgeries above) will be performed by experts.
  • Patient will be closely monitored in the  recovery room till the effect of anesthesia goes away
  • Patient will be given IV for saline and a catheter may be inserted for collection of urine.

After the surgery

  • Once the patient is fully awake, he/she will be taken to a hospital room.
  • Patient may experience pain after surgery (for a few days).
  • Patient may have to take certain pain relieving medicines and iron supplements.
  • Catheter and IV may be removed after a few days of the procedure.
  • Patient may be adjusted to proper posture to support the spine.
  • Experts may train the patient about proper movement, postures to be maintained while sitting, standing and walking (physiotherapy).
  • Patient may be asked to turn (on bed) using "log rolling" (a technique of moving the whole body rather than twisting it).
  • Stitches or staples will be removed almost 2 weeks after surgery.
  • Patient may be discharged after few days (depending on recovery) with back brace.
  • Recovery time may vary from patient to patient, depending on the age and physical condition and disease of the patient.

What are the benefits of the surgery?

Spinal or back surgery offers the following benefits:

  • Relieves back pain
  • Increases movement and enables working
  • Helps to maintain physical fitness
  • Enhances mood
  • Reduces intake of medicines
  • Improves productivity

What are the risks post surgery?

The majority of the patients undergoing back surgery do not face any kind of risk after the procedure. However, some patients may experience the following:

  • Blood loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Infections
  • Adverse reaction to anesthesia
  • Adverse reaction to any drug
  • Heart problems (stroke and heart attack) due to DVT.
  • Blood clotting
  • Disc herniation
  • Pain
  • Weakness
  • Paralysis
  • Decreased sex desire
  • Decreased bladder control
  • Prolonged recovery time

When to seek an emergency medical care after surgery ?

Seek an emergency medical care, in case of following signs:

  • Swelling
  • Pain accompanied by tenderness and redness
  • Sudden pain or aggravation of pain
  • Breathing difficulty
  • Drainage from the surgical site
  • Chills
  • Fever

What care should be taken after the procedure?

Patient and family members may have to take following care after the procedure:

  • Take medicines on time, as prescribed.
  • Use ice or heat or combination to relieve the pain.
  • Wear comfortable clothes.
  • Take complete rest and sufficient sleep.
  • Maintain the postures as instructed.
  • Choose appropriate exercise.
  • Exercise regularly (as recommended); it should mainly include stretching and moving.
  • Strictly avoid bending and twisting.
  • Avoid exercises such as cycling, swimming or rigorous walking for few weeks.
  • Take the support of toilet riser and other support devices like grabber, slip-on-shoes, ergonomic chairs etc.
  • Keep every important thing within reach.
  • Avoid household work for at least few weeks after the surgery.
  • Avoid smoking.
  • Avoid alcohol consumption.
  • Do not sit for longer duration
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Eat healthy and drink lots of water.
  • Avoid sitting on floor, sofa and bean bags or any low level.

Keep you spine healthy, by doing regular exercises, observing a healthy posture and eating a healthy diet, to avoid the risk of a surgery unless accidental.


*Disclaimer: This is not medical advice. The content is for educational purposes only. Please contact your doctor for any health care issues.