As a last resort, if other treatments are not indicated or have failed, surgical options may be available. For certain back problems, surgery has been determined to be only somewhat more beneficial than other less invasive treatments. Patients should not hesitate to get a second opinion if surgery is recommended.
Surgery may be indicated for conditions such as a ruptured disc, compressed nerves, slipped vertebra, pinched nerve, fractures due to osteoporosis, degenerative disc disease or a tumor. The goals of back surgery fall into these main categories: removing a damaged disc or part, correction of deformity, fusing discs around a removed one, nerve decompression and removing tumors or infection.
Some back surgery procedures are less invasive and may be performed on an outpatient basis. Others are major undertakings requiring hospital stays, restricted physical activity for at least 3 months (in the case of spinal fusion) and extended rehabilitation periods. In addition, a back brace may be needed during part of the recovery period.
Any surgical procedure carries risks that include blood clotting, less than completely successful outcome, infection, nerve damage and anesthesia complications in some cases. Additional back surgery risks may include spinal fluid leaks and even paralysis, although this is rare.
This article is intended for educational purposes only. Consult your physician for advice on your unique situation.