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Spine Surgery: Types, Recovery Time, Risks and Benefits for Pain

Author:  
Dr. Deuk
An expert in all things spine, Dr. Deukmedjain is a board certified neurosurgeon who has performed thousands of minimally invasive surgeries and procedures including the revolutionary Deuk Laser Disc Repair and the Deuk Spinal Fusion. 

If you have recently been contemplating spine surgery or your physician recommends it, it’s best to gain a complete understanding of what spine surgery entails before committing. 

Those who have been victims of an accident, are experiencing aging pains, have a spine disease or disorder, or have been dealing with back pain their whole life may have to lean towards spinal surgery as the answer. 

Spine surgery may seem a daunting procedure, but it has left millions living a life free of back pain. 

It’s best to consult your doctor regarding various other non-surgical procedures before continuing with spinal surgery. However, if you’re at a point where you’ve tried non-surgical treatments without success, back surgery is to be considered.

This article will teach you what you need to know before committing to spinal surgery. Specifically, you’ll learn what the goal of the procedure is, along with the various types of surgery offered

What is Spine Surgery?

spine-surgery

Spine surgery aims to alleviate a patient's back pain by changing the anatomy of the spine through various types of procedures depending on the diagnosis. 

When speaking to your doctor about spine surgery, you will most likely hear the terms “open surgery” or “minimally invasive,” and it is important to acknowledge the difference. 

  • Open Surgery 
spine-surgery

The most traditional spinal procedure entails opening the patient at the surgical site with a long incision, allowing the surgeon to have an optimum spine view. 

This technique requires a longer operation time and recovery compared to minimally invasive techniques. 

  • Minimally Invasive 
spine-surgery

The newest and less invasive spinal surgery technique involves a small incision where an endoscope (a lighted microscopic camera) allows the surgeon to see the patient's spine. Surgeons then use specialized instruments to complete the procedure. 

This procedure avoids large incisions by moving the muscle and tissue around through a small opening in the patient. As a result, patients leave with a small incision site along with a shorter recovery time. 

Both open surgery and minimally invasive procedures aim to alleviate the chronic back pain the patient is living with. 

There are three surgical approaches surgeons consider when discussing the surgical procedure. 

Anterior approach - Spinal access through the front of the body 

Posterior approach - Spinal access through the back of the body 

Lateral approach - Spinal access through the side of the body 

Before deciding to pursue spinal surgery, be sure to discuss alternative non-surgical procedures with your doctor; these involve physical therapy, acupuncture, or medications.

Signs You Need Spine Surgery

Many Americans live with chronic back pain their whole life and are hesitant to discuss treatment with their doctor due to not knowing when to confront the issue. Those who have tried various non-surgical treatments for back or neck pain without positive results should consult a doctor about getting spine surgery. 

For instance, when patients live with chronic back and neck pain for an extended period of several months or more with little relief from medications and physical therapy, it is a sign that spine surgery may be the solution. Another sign that spine surgery may offer a solution would be for those living with leg or lower body numbness or suffering from a complication within the spinal cord or a compressed nerve root. 

If you are someone or know someone who is living with pain from the degeneration of discs, spinal stenosis, vertebrae pain, bone spurs, herniated disc(s), bulging disc(s), or other pain caused by a condition of the spine; it’s time to get a free MRI review

Spine Surgery: What to Expect

When you have consulted with your doctor and agreed to move forward with spinal surgery, they will encourage you to understand what spine surgery entails and prepare accordingly. 

There are various types of spine surgery that help spine and back pain which are discussed further in this article. 

Whatever type of spine surgery your surgeon dictates is best for your pain, be sure to ask the following questions to understand what to expect before going into your procedure:

  • Will the procedure be minimally invasive or open surgery?
  • What surgical approach will be used?
  • What is the recovery procedure/time?
  • What is the goal of the procedure? 
  • How long will the surgery take?
  • Will I have to make any significant lifestyle changes?

Each type of spine surgery will result in different answers to the questions above.

Overall, you can expect your spine surgery to leave you feeling more mobile after a recovery period of rest and healing. 

Spine Surgery Benefits

The goal of any type of spine surgery is ultimately to alleviate any back or neck pain the patient is living with to regain control of their lives

Therefore, the benefits of spine surgery will first and foremost include an increase in mobilization for the patient, which will help increase their quality of life. Patients will also find an absence or decreased reliance on medication and other non-surgical treatments. 

Spine surgery aims to decrease the chance of the patient needing any further procedures in the future but does not guarantee this from happening. 

After spine surgery, individuals feel they have regained their agency in life, allowing them to return to a mobile, pain and numbness-free lifestyle. Patients automatically see a positive change in their family and friends who have been suffering alongside them. 

Benefits:

  • Increased mobilization allows you to do all the things you enjoy without painful restrictions.
  • Decreased pain/numbness. 
  • Minimal or zero reliance on pain medications. 
  • Reduced chance of further procedures. 
  • Productivity in life increases due to an increase in both physical and mental wellness. 

Spine Surgery Risks

When patients undergo any surgical procedure, they should be aware of the risks and complications. Spinal surgery involves risks that the patient should consult their doctor about before the procedure. 

With any surgical treatment involving anesthesia where the patient is completely put to sleep during the procedure, there is always a risk of complications arising. Be sure to talk to your doctor to retrieve more information if you have any concerns and read more about anesthesia at the bottom of this article. 

Other risks include infection, blood clots, and nerve damage. When implants or hardware are placed into the spine, there is a risk of these implants and hardware moving, breaking, or becoming infected, resulting in further procedures. 

Risks:

  • Bleeding/Infection at the incision site.
  • Reaction to anesthesia or other medication.
  • Heart attack/Stroke.
  • Nerve/nerve root damage.
  • Herniated disc(s).
  • Cerebrospinal fluid leaks when the dura mater (outermost layer of connective tissue surrounding the spine) tears.

Spine Surgery Recovery Time

Due to the multiple types of spine surgeries offered, there are various recovery times associated with each. Therefore talk with your doctor ahead of time to ensure you understand the recovery time expected for your procedure. 

Before surgery, note the risks involved that could potentially extend the predicted recovery time provided; in this case, it is essential to factor in a longer recovery time than expected. 

Immediately after surgery, patients can either expect to stay in the hospital to be monitored for 1 to 2 days or are free to go home after the procedure. Patients who undergo a minimally invasive spine surgery can typically expect a recovery time of 4 to 6 weeks, and those who have an open surgery can expect 2 to 4 months. These recovery times are average and will depend on the procedure completed. 

Spine Surgery Cost

Spinal surgery varies in cost depending on the type of procedure and the patient’s insurance coverage. 

Without insurance coverage, the cost of back surgery usually falls within the window of $50,000-$150,000. With insurance, the cost is between $200 to $7,000, depending on the insurance and the yearly out-of-pocket figure. 

It is essential to consider the cost of recovery and factor in any physical therapy needed along with back braces, medications, etc. 

Physical therapy with insurance ranges from $20- $100 out of pocket, therefore factoring in an extra $1,000 to $1,500 to cover multiple sessions should be considered. 

Spine Surgery Video

The video below explains how an annular tear can cause chronic pain. 

If you are searching for more visual educational content, explore the following links:

Common Types of Surgery for Spine Pain and Back Pain

  1. Deuk Laser Disc Repair

What is it: 

Deuk Laser Disc Repair is a procedure completed using an endoscope (a narrow tube with a light and camera attached) to guide a precision laser. In this outpatient procedure, the surgeon aims to remove only the damaged disc tissue causing the patient’s pain. The damaged tissue only accounts for 5 to 10% of the total disc tissue, which, once removed, leaves a healthy disc. Patients of this procedure do not require added artificial discs, screws, rods, cages, or spinal fusion treatments. 

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This type of spine surgery allows the surgeon to reach the source of back pain without sacrificing the stabilizing joints, bones, or ligaments. Pain-causing inflammation ceases when the laser energy removes the herniated disc(s) material and debrides the annular tear. This procedure gently moves tissues aside, leaving them free of any damage, avoiding the complications of dangerous open surgeries that require entering the patient's abdomen. 

Deuk Laser Disc Repair is a treatment for back pain from annular tears, herniated discs, bulging discs, degenerated discs, and spinal stenosis and is peer-reviewed and FDA approved as a safe and effective procedure. Patients require no hospital stay, no narcotic pain killers, and can walk out of the facility after completing the procedure. 

Dr. Ara Deukmedjian has traveled the world studying emerging surgical technologies and techniques that have contributed to developing his laser technology. Deuk Spine Institute has a 95% success rate in eliminating pain with zero complications, backed by a surgical warranty (for patients choosing this option). With over sixteen years of performing Deuk Laser Disc Repair, Dr. Deukmedjian has developed a one-of-a-kind method of using laser technology to heal the spine without the need for fusion, drilling, implants, or added pain. There is no other surgery available that compares. 

Cervical Deuk Laser Disc Repair vs. Anterior Cervical Discectomy & Fusion

Recovery time: 

After Deuk Laser Disc Repair, patients are up and walking out of the recovery room free of pain, and within two days, patients are returning to everyday life and are back to work within the week. 

This short recovery time is thanks to the gentle precision laser technique. As a minimally invasive procedure, patients leave with a 4-millimeter incision site and are free of scarring and internal damage. 

During the recovery period, patients are encouraged to use hot/cold packs if needed. Individuals recovering from spine surgery should avoid lifting anything over 20 pounds and speak with their doctor before returning to strenuous activities. Patients that experience any redness, swelling, or pain should contact the facility. 

Benefits of laser spine surgery: 

  • The technology used during laser spine surgery purposely avoids damaging nerves, leaving internal scarring and any risk of infection. 
  • The minimally invasive approach only focuses on removing the damaged disc tissue, preserving all other healthy disc tissues. 
  • Patients experience short recovery periods from the less-invasive technique. Patients walk out of the recovery room pain-free and are back to their everyday lives within one week. 
  • Deuk Laser Disc Repair has a 95% success rate of eliminating patients' pain by removing the possibility of any complications through top-of-the-line technology. 
  • Patients are stress-free with the knowledge that Deuk Laser Disc Repair virtually eliminates the possibility of complications and infections. 
  • The minimally invasive technique leaves patients with an average 4-millimeter incision site that can be covered by a band-aid and leaves virtually no internal or external scarring. 
  • The procedure uses a posterior approach, where the patient is lying on their stomach. This technique avoids the surgeon reaching the spine through the stomach, which can cause agitation of the organs, and a higher risk of infection. 

 

Deuk Laser Disc Repair surgery video

Risks of laser spine surgery:

  • The risk of Deuk Laser Disc Repair is having an inadequate surgeon who is not familiar with the unique procedure and does not invest in the patient. It requires a surgeon who is educated on the one-of-a-kind technology used during surgery and has confidence in his patients’ recovery. 

Cost: Request a free MRI review for a quote. 

  1. Laser Spine Surgery 

What is it?

Laser spine surgery is a form of endoscopic surgery and is less invasive than traditional back surgery. It can also be done as an outpatient procedure with the patient sedated under local anesthesia with only a single ¼ inch incision and minimal blood loss. Due to its nature as a minimally invasive procedure, laser spine surgery guarantees patients a shorter hospital stay. The operation results in less bleeding, trauma, and therefore no scarring. It also lowers postoperative complications and pain levels, so no opioids are needed afterward for surgery pain.  These factors contribute to ensuring patients have a faster recovery time as the period required for rehabilitation is significantly shorter than in traditional back surgery like laminectomy, discectomy, fusion, or total disc replacement.

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Laser spine surgery is a procedure applied to repair sections of herniated disc tissue that might be compressing the spinal cord or nerves and causing discomfort to the patient. Using only heat from a precision laser, surgeons can cut through the soft tissues and restore stability to the spinal column. This surgery method removes the need for a scalpel and only requires a small incision to be successfully performed.

Recovery Time:

After laser spine surgery, patients can go home immediately and require no hospital stay. The minimally invasive technique leaves patients with a small incision site that results in minimal to no scarring. 

In the comfort of their homes, patients can walk immediately after laser spine surgery and are encouraged to incorporate walking into their daily recovery routine. Most patients can return to work within one week of surgery and return to their regular physical activity after six weeks if cleared by their surgeon. 

Your surgeon may recommend physical therapy that will help decrease recovery time while promoting muscle strength. 

Patients should contact their surgeon if any redness, swelling, or pain occurs during their recovery. 

Benefits of Laser Spine Surgery:

  • Patients who undergo laser spine surgery have less risk of infection due to the minimally invasive technique used. 
  • Laser spine surgery is an outpatient procedure allowing the patient to recover in their own home. 
  • This technique results in shorter recovery times and less postoperative pain. 
  • Compared to patients who undergo traditional surgery, laser spine surgery patients lose less blood and have a minimal chance of infection. 
  • Laser spine surgery has a high success rate for the treatment of herniated disc material and those who are suffering from sciatica. 

Risks of Laser Spine Surgery: 

  • After laser spine surgery, patients are at risk of additional surgery if the procedure does not cure the pain. 
  • Harm to surrounding tissues from heat damage. The heat that results from the use of the laser can damage surrounding tissues and nerves. 
  • After laser spine surgery, there is a chance of infection following the procedure. Patients are encouraged to contact their doctor if they experience any pain or discomfort after the operation. 

Cost: $30,000 - $90,000

  1. Spinal Fusion Surgery 

(Offered at Deuk Spine Institute)

Different Types:

  1. ACDF (Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion) 
    1. ACDF is a neck surgery where the surgeon removes the damaged disc to relieve the compression of the nerves that are causing pain. This surgery is a form of surgical decompression that uses an anterior approach (through the front of the neck) to fuse vertebrae with a metal plate to alleviate pain. 
  2. PCDF (Posterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion)
    1. A PCDF uses a posterior approach through the back of the neck to remove part of or a whole damaged disc, resulting in the spinal cord decompression and root pressure. Identical to an ACDF but uses a different approach and screws and rods to facilitate spinal fusion. 
  3. TLIF (Transforaminal Lumbar Interbody Fusion) 
    1. A transforaminal lumbar (lower back) interbody fusion is a procedure through the posterior (back) of the spine where an interbody fusion tool (a tool made to create space for a bone graft to be inserted) is placed between discs in the spine. A bone graft is inserted in the space and, over time, will fuse the adjacent vertebrae above and below into one singular bone. 
  4. XLIF (Extreme Lateral Interbody Fusion) 
    1. Using a lateral approach, the surgeon accesses the patient's spine through the side of their body. Once the spine is reached, the surgeon locates the problematic intervertebral disc, and a fusion is completed. This technique is popular for those who experience lumbar spinal disorders such as scoliosis and spondylolisthesis. 
  5. ALIF (Anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion) 
    1. An ALIF technique requires a surgeon to use an anterior (through the abdominal region) entry to complete a lumbar spinal fusion. This approach is recommended when multiple spinal vertebrae are being fused and has been reported to be the riskiest for complications of all the techniques. Out of all of the techniques above, it is reported this procedure is the most risky for complications.

What is it? 

The anatomy of the spine consists of a disc space in the front and paired-faced joints supporting it behind. These joints and disc space allow for everyday movement and can be the source of pain for those needing spinal fusion surgery. Spinal fusion surgery aims to fuse two vertebral segments to stop the motion of one or more vertebrae that are causing pain. Spinal fusion is based on the normal healing process of broken bones and was invented to mimic the action. Surgeons are also known to complete a laminectomy and a spinal fusion due to a spinal fusion NOT being a decompressive surgery. 

The fusion involves placing a bone graft in the space between vertebrae, and for 3-6 months, this bone graft will “fuse,” or combine the vertebra into one singular bone. The bone graft used in this procedure is usually taken from the patient's hip during surgery, or taken from a cadaver bone ahead of time, or ins some cases, manufactured. Bone grafts have a history of causing unwanted spinal surgery complications, so discuss the potential risks with your surgeon. 

When the bone graft is successful, and the vertebrae fuse to create a singular long bone, the motion of the vertebrae is eliminated, relieving the patient of pain. To ensure the success of a bone graft, surgeons may rely on metal plates, rods, or screws that are placed during the procedure to establish the correct healing position. Surgeons are also known to use techniques that involve setting up a biological response to generate bone growth between the vertebrae, setting up a bone fusion to begin over time. 

spinal-fusion-surgery

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Recovery Time:

Patients need to prepare for a long recovery time after receiving a spinal fusion. The fusion of vertebrae is not immediate and typically takes between 3-6 months to fuse fully. Fusion is the process of a bone graft placed between vertebrae with the expectation that after 3-6 months, the two vertebrae combine to form a singular bone. 

The spinal fusion process is especially crucial during the first 1-3 months after surgery. During these first few months, the fusion establishes and solidifies; patients must adhere to their doctors’ advice for recovery. Once the bone hardens, patients are free to return to their normal activities after roughly six months if approved by their surgeon.

Patients can avoid a long recovery time by consulting with one of the physicians at the Deuk Spine Institute, as spinal fusions are performed as outpatient procedures. This is made possible by using advanced techniques that reduce blood loss and manage pain. Meaning patients can walk out of the facility the same day, which is a huge difference compared to other facilities where patients need to be monitored and kept in the hospital for 2 to 4 days. Patients who receive spinal fusion at Deuk Spine Institute can typically return to the office or sedentary jobs within six weeks.

Benefits of Spinal Fusion Surgery:

  • Spinal Fusion restores proper alignment of the spine by reducing post-decompressive deformity. Any abnormal alignment of the spine can lead to multiple procedures to fix misalignments along the spine. 
  • When vertebrae are fused together, patients feel relief from pain caused by the problematic joints. It is important to note that spinal fusion is NOT a decompressive surgery; therefore, surgeons may recommend a laminectomy to relieve pinched nerves. 
  • The formation of one long singular bone through spinal fusion enables patients who otherwise would be bedridden to live a pain-free life. The formation creates added stability to the spine.
  • Spinal fusion procedures are usually completed as minimally invasive, leaving the patient with a small surgical incision and little to no internal or external scarring. 

Risks of Spinal Fusion Surgery:

  • The bone graft placed between vertebrae may not take, meaning new growth may not occur, causing the spine to remain unstable. The bone graft placed during surgery has the chance of not properly fusing the vertebrae together to create a singular bone. 
  • If the bone graft does not correctly fuse the vertebrae, patients may need to undergo additional procedures. 
  • If any equipment (screws, rods, etc.) is placed during the procedure, there is a risk that these can become loose and erode surrounding bones and tissues, or become infected over time. 
  • Spinal fusion is invasive, and patients run the risk of the procedure damaging surrounding nerves and tissues. There is an added risk of damaging nerves if any screws or rods are placed to anchor bones. 
  • Patients are expected to understand a substantial amount of scar tissue that will form during any spinal fusion surgery. 

Cost: $60,000- $500,000

  1. Laminectomy/Laminotomy Surgery 

Different Types: 

  • Laminectomy
    • A procedure that fully removes the lamina (the bony plate that covers the back of the spinal canal)
  • Laminotomy 
    • A procedure that partially removes the lamina (the bony plate that covers the back of the spinal canal) 

What is it?

This procedure is often referred to as an “open decompression,” focusing on the part of the spine that creates the vertebral arch in the spine found on the posterior (back) on the bone called the lamina, along with the surrounding attached ligaments. 

During a laminectomy/laminotomy, the surgeon aims to eliminate arm and leg symptoms by using a posterior approach (where the patient is lying on their stomach) to reach the spine. Starting with an incision above the problematic vertebrae, the surgeon uses a retractor to move the tissues aside. Once the spine is reached, the surgeon carefully handles the nerves surrounding the spinal cord and removes part of (during a laminotomy) or all of (during a laminectomy) the lamina and the surrounding ligaments using the appropriate tools. 

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The goal of a laminectomy/laminotomy surgery is to create space along the spinal canal. The removal of the lamina relieves pressure on the spinal cord and the surrounding nerves, eliminating the leg or arm pain caused by the compression. This procedure is recommended for patients experiencing bony overgrowths or bone spurs within the spinal canal caused by arthritis or central spinal stenosis, a condition that narrows the spinal canal. 

It is important to note that laminectomy and laminotomy procedures do not treat back or neck pain and usually make back pain worse. It is common for surgeons to perform a spinal fusion during a laminectomy/laminotomy due to the instability that the procedure causes. A bone graft is placed between vertebrae discs during a spinal fusion, and within 3-6 months, the bone graft fuses the vertebrae together, creating a singular bone and increasing stability. When patients undergo a microdiscectomy, a laminotomy is always performed to unpinch nerves associated with the legs. 

Recovery Time:

Patients are monitored for infections in the hospital for 2-4 days following a laminectomy/laminotomy procedure. Surgeons may prescribe powerful pain medications and stool softeners to the patient during this period and the days following leaving the hospital. Patients should expect scar tissue to form around the spine and nerves. 

Once patients return home, they need to decrease intense exercise and activity to promote spine stability while noting the importance of movement to regain full mobility after recovery. Surgeons will recommend physical therapy following a laminectomy/laminotomy to help patients regain mobility. Full recovery will take months and even years for some. 

When patients no longer take opioid medications, they can resume driving within two months. Most patients find themselves fully recovered after 2-6 months after surgery; this is dependent on the health of the individual, how the surgery went, and the procedure itself. Patients have reported a newfound stiffness that lasts a lifetime even after physical therapy. 

Benefits of Laminectomy/Laminotomy:

  • Creates space for the spinal cord, relieving the pressure on the spinal cord and surrounding nerves. This decompression leads to decrease in pain felt in the arms and legs. Usually will result in increasing back pain. 
  • Reduces prickling sensations, numbness and tingling, and bladder issues that are caused by radiating nerves. 

Risks of Laminectomy/Laminotomy:

  • Tearing the dura mater, the membrane surrounding the spinal cord, may cause a cerebrospinal fluid leak. 
  • The invasive technique used during the laminectomy/laminotomy procedure may cause collateral damage to surrounding tissues and nerves.
  • During the procedure, patients are at risk of infection, excessive bleeding, and the need for a blood transfusion. 
  • Patients may need further procedures if the surgery is unsuccessful in relieving the pressure surrounding the spinal canal. 
  • Laminectomies result in the prescription of addictive opioid painkillers for prolonged periods.

Cost: $50,000 - $150,000

  1. Discectomy Surgery 

What is it?

There are two variants of discectomy surgery that patients can undergo; an open discectomy or a microdiscectomy. Discectomy is far more invasive than endoscopic laser spine surgery and as such has more complications, postoperative pain, longer recovery, and more scar tissue.

The main distinction is that an open discectomy features a larger incision, more normal spinal bone and ligaments are removed, more scar tissue and pain than a microdiscectomy. This procedure gives room for the underlying risk of nerve damage to the neighboring nerves of the vertebrae. The spinal column can also become unstable due to the removed bones, ligaments, and facet joints. In such cases, a spinal fusion is conducted following the discectomy to re-stabilize the spinal column, marginally increasing the patient’s recovery time

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A discectomy is performed using an “open” technique, where the surgeon creates a large incision as opposed to a small one used in minimally invasive approaches (see Microdiscectomy).

Recovery time:

After patients undergo a discectomy procedure, they should expect to be mobile within one day and return to work within 2 to 4 weeks if they do not partake in any physically demanding tasks. 

Surgeons generally recommend seeing a physical therapist during recovery to promote full mobility of the spine. A physical therapist advises the patient of appropriate exercises and of the necessary precautions. 

A patient's recovery is entirely dependent on underlying diseases, the individual's health before and after the procedure, and how well they tend to their recovery process. Find tips to help with spine surgery recovery at the end of this article. 

Benefits of Discectomy surgery:

  • Discectomy surgery is highly beneficial for those who suffer from sciatica, a condition referencing the pain that is felt along the sciatic nerve. When the nerve is relieved from the pressure, patients immediately feel relief from leg pain. 
  • Patients who undergo discectomy surgeries benefit from a short recovery period, returning to work within 2 to 4 weeks. 
  • Mobility is restored to those restricted by herniated disc(s) pain—improving overall quality of life. 

Risks of Discectomy surgery:

  • Patients accept a 5- 10% chance of recurrent disc herniation in the future. 
  • Undergoing a discectomy surgery may result in nerve damage or ongoing pain resulting from spinal nerve damage.
  • Internal and external infection is a persistent risk when a patient undergoes any type of surgery.
  • Bleeding and blood clots may occur during or after surgery. Your surgeon will advise the best practices to minimize your risk.
  • Spine becomes more unstable from bone, joint and ligament removal, resulting in back pain worsening. 

Cost: Pricing will vary depending on the information gathered by the surgeon from the MRI scans of individuals; you can book a free MRI review here to learn more. 

  1. Microdiscectomy Surgery 

What is it?

A microdiscectomy and discectomy surgery share the same goal of removing part of, or the entire, problematic intervertebral disc. A discectomy uses an open surgical technique, whereas microdiscectomy surgery requires a smaller skin incision and a microscope. Microdiscectomy surgery, sometimes called microdiscectomy or micro decompression, is for patients who suffer from sciatica, caused by herniated lumbar disc(s). When a lumbar disc(s) herniates, it causes a wide range of painful symptoms by putting pressure on nerves in the spinal column. 

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A microdiscectomy procedure is when the disc(s) inner nucleus, found between the vertebrae, herniates. A disc becomes herniated through an annular tear when the hard exterior (annulus) of the disc cracks, allowing space for the soft internal center (nucleus) to bulge out and push on surrounding spinal nerves. 

When performing a microdiscectomy, the surgeon makes a small incision on the patient's back over the affected area of the spine. After cutting the muscle away from the spine the surgeon uses an endoscope (a lighted microscope camera) to remove bone and ligaments to access the herniated disc material. The removal of the herniated tissue frees the surrounding nerves of pressure and patients should no longer feel pain or numbness in their legs. 

The procedure requires the removal of part of the spinal facet joint which leads to a great amount of spinal instability. This instability leaves patients with back pain resulting in the need of future procedures. 

Recovery time:

The minimally invasive technique used during a microdiscectomy leaves the patient with an average 1-1.5 inch incision site with no internal or external scarring. Patients can leave the hospital the same day as surgery if no complications arise or they may be required to stay overnight if it’s late in the day or some observations are required. 

Patients are expected to get back to their everyday lives within days after surgery, yet are told to use caution when doing any strenuous activity and should wait 2-4 weeks before lifting anything over 20 pounds. 

During recovery, patients will most likely see a physical therapist to help with exercises that promote the full mobility of the spine. However, it usually takes six weeks to 3 months for patients to recover fully and get cleared by their physician to resume routine exercise.

Benefits of Microdiscectomy surgery:

  • A microdiscectomy procedure is one of the fastest and easiest ways for patients to receive immediate relief of leg pain from herniated disc(s). 
  • The minimally invasive technique is beneficial due to the shortened recovery time and decreased risk of infection and bleeding. 
  • Microdiscectomy surgery allows the patient to regain full mobility without leg pain, granting them the ability to return to their everyday life free of leg pain. 
  • Patients no longer need to rely on pain medications to relieve themselves of pain. 

Risks of Microdiscectomy surgery: 

  • Risk of a dural tear resulting in a cerebrospinal fluid leak. When the spinal dura mater is torn during surgery, it allows cerebrospinal fluid to leak out, causing other complications. 
  • Bleeding and blood clots are a risk if a surgical procedure is completed, and patients are recommended to speak to their surgeon beforehand to discuss preventative techniques.
  • Recurrent disc herniation may occur after surgery, resulting in additional procedures. 
  • Procedure usually results in spinal instability which leads to worsening back pain. 

Cost: $15,000 - $50,000 

  1. Artificial Disc 

What is it?

Artificial disc replacement surgery is recommended only for patients who have attempted other non-surgical procedures, such as physical therapy and medications, with no relief of back pain for six months or longer. 

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The spine consists of 24 vertebrae separated by intervertebral discs that allow movement and prevent friction between discs. When these intervertebral discs become damaged or deteriorated, surgeons may recommend the placement of an artificial disc. Artificial disc replacement is generally regarded as the most risky and dangerous approach due to the severe complications that may occur. 

During an artificial disc replacement surgery, the surgeon removes the problematic disc causing the patient pain and replaces it with an artificial disc. The procedure requires the surgeon to access the patient's spine through the anterior (front) of the patient's abdomen. Once at the spine, the surgeon then removes and replaces the damaged disc. The surgeon creates the replacement disc from surgical-grade materials designed to mimic the disc. 

Recovery time:

An artificial disc replacement surgery involves an open surgery technique through the anterior (front) of the patient, consisting of the movement of organs to reach the spine. Patients can expect to stay in the hospital for 2-3 days if no complications arise. 24 hours after surgery, patients are walking with the help of a cane or walker. 

With the first 6 weeks of surgery, patients can return to work and gradually participate in basic exercises if approved by their physical therapist. Individuals in recovery should avoid any activity that may involve hyperextension of the back and lifting heavy objects. 

Benefits of Artificial Disc:

  • The removal of the damaged or deteriorating disc and the placement of an artificial disc may relieve the patient of back pain, allowing them to return to their everyday lives. 
  • Patients regain full mobility of the spine. 
  • The artificial disc relieves pressure on other discs, decreasing the chances of further disc damage. 

Risks of Artificial Disc:

  • Artificial discs may dislocate and become dislodged between the vertebrae. Causing the need for further procedures. 
  • Following artificial disc placement, the disc may become infected or loosen over time. 
  • Bleeding, blood clots, and infection are common risks for any surgical procedure, and the patient should discuss preventative techniques ahead of time. 
  • Scar tissue may form from open surgery techniques, resulting in bowel injuries and blockage of the bowel. 
  • Large blood vessels may become injured which can lead to the need to amputate the leg. 

Cost: $30,000 - $50,000

  1. Interspinous Devices 

What is it?

Interspinous devices open the foramen (the passageway the spinal nerve roots are), creating more room and limiting the pain patients may feel from spinal extension and spinal stenosis. Surgeons place interspinous devices between spinous processes located on the back of the spinal column.

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Those with degenerative spine conditions such as spinal stenosis usually consult their doctor about interspinous devices. There are multiple types of interspinous devices; therefore, patients should speak with their surgeon regarding their specific condition. 

Interspinous devices are used as spacers between the spinous processes of the vertebrae through a minimally invasive procedure, allowing the patient a short recovery time before returning to everyday life. During the procedure, the patient is lying on their stomach while the surgeon makes a small incision over the spine and inserts the device; once inserted, the surgeon opens the device, creating the space between spinous processes. Most interspinous devices do not require screws and rods. 

Recovery time:

The implantation of interspinous devices is a minimally invasive procedure since the spinous processes are located at the back of the spine, closest to the skin. Usually, interspinous devices require no additional screws or hardware to ensure they are stable. 

Patients can expect to leave the hospital after the procedure and return to work within one week. Doctors suggest waiting up to seven weeks before returning to any vigorous exercise or heavy lifting activities. Patients may consider physical therapy to help speed up recovery. 

Benefits of Interspinous Devices:

  • Interspinous device surgery can be performed as an outpatient procedure, allowing patients to recover in their own homes with a short recovery period. 
  • Preserves spinal motion by releasing the pressure from degenerative discs.
  • Allows patients to return to a pain-free life. 

Risks of Interspinous Devices:

  • Interspinous devices may become dislodged or shift out of place, requiring additional procedures. 
  • The bone may settle around the implant, which is common in patients with osteoporosis (a bone disease resulting in weakened bones) 
  • The spinous processes are at risk of fracturing from the pressure of the interspinous device. 
  • The interspinous device may not provide any relief for the patient, which results in future procedures. 

Cost: $5,000 - $10,000

  1.  Intrathecal Pumps

What is it?

A fluid-filled space referred to as the subarachnoid, or intrathecal space surrounds the spinal cord. The fluid found in this space is the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and is necessary to protect your brain and spinal cord. 

Intrathecal pumps pump pain medication directly into the CSF surrounding the spine. This “pain pump” is more effective than oral pain medication because it is delivered directly into the CSF; therefore, it requires a small dose. 

During the implantation surgery of the intrathecal pump, the surgeon enters through the patients’ abdomen through a small incision. The lamina (bony arch of the spine) is exposed, and the surgeon secures a catheter in the place above the spinal cord called the subarachnoid, or intrathecal space. The catheter is attached to the pump placed in a pocket created by the surgeon between the patients’ skin and muscle layers. 

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The pump is the size of a hockey puck and is programmed to slowly release medication over a period of time through the catheter directly into the CSF. Doctors can keep filling the pump by inserting a needle through the skin to the pump. 

Recovery time:

After the placement of an intrathecal pump, patients should expect to return the same day. Individuals in recovery after intrathecal pump surgery are expected to get up and walk for 5-10 minutes every 3-4 hours and should ice the incision site if any pain occurs. 

Patients should not bend or lift anything above their head for six weeks or until cleared by their doctor. After 6-12 weeks, patients make a complete recovery dependent if any complications arise. 

Benefits of Intrathecal Pumps:

  • Patients who experience chronic back pain may find relief from intrathecal pumps. 
  • Oral medication usage decreases, and pain medication is pumped directly into the CSF, providing more immediate relief. 
  • Patients who experience muscle spasms may find a decrease in spasticity from the pain medication, reducing rigidity. 

Risks of Intrathecal Pumps:

  • Intrathecal pumps may become dislodged or stop working altogether, requiring further procedures. 
  • The catheter that delivers the pain medication may become blocked or break completely, leaking pain medication into the spine. 
  • Damage to the spinal cord and surrounding nerves may result during the implantation of the spinal catheter. 
  • In 20% of patients, cerebral spinal leaks occur, which leads to additional complications. 

Cost: Consult with a doctor before considering intrathecal pump implantation. The cost will include the upkeep of the device, which requires a battery change after five years. The pump requires continual filling with the appropriate pain medication. 

10. Kyphoplasty Treatment of Fractures 

What is it?

Kyphoplasty treatment treats patients experiencing vertebral compression fractures such as osteoporotic fractures (weakening of the bone structure due to osteoporosis). This treatment involves injecting acrylic bone cement into the vertebral fracture, aiming to restore form and strength. 

Vertebroplasty is a similar technique to kyphoplasty and also involves the injection of acrylic bone cement into vertebral fractures. The difference between the two is that the kyphoplasty treatment aims to restore the spine's natural height before the fracture by addressing the curvature of the spinal column. 

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During the procedure, surgeons insert a needle into the spine using x-ray imaging to guide them. Using a balloon tamp through the needle, the surgeon inflates the balloon tamp between the vertebrae to restore the natural height. Once at the proper height, the cavity is injected with acrylic bone cement. The bone cement stabilizes the fracture and provides immediate relief from pain. 

Recovery time:

Those recovering from kyphoplasty will feel immediate relief from back pain within two days. Patients are required to attend a follow-up appointment after a few weeks to ensure the recovery is going smoothly, and the bone cement has solidified properly. 

Once at home, patients can return to their normal daily activities making sure to avoid heavy lifting and strenuous activity/exercise. After at least six weeks, patients can expect a full recovery. 

Benefits of Kyphoplasty Treatment:

  • Significant reduction in back pain caused by a bone fracture.
  • This treatment adds stability to the fractured bone, providing strength back to the spine. 
  • Kyphoplasty treatment causes sustained improvement in mobility, allowing patients to return to everyday life activities. 

Risks of Kyphoplasty Treatment:

  • The acrylic bone cement can leak from the injection site, which can cause added complications and nerve damage. 
  • Paralysis is a risk when damage occurs to the spinal cord during the procedure or cement leakage. 
  • Patients run the risk of experiencing an allergic reaction to acrylic bone cement.

Cost: $5,000 - $7,000

What Are the Considerations for Anesthesia During Surgery?

Anesthesia is a medical treatment preventing patients from feeling pain during surgical procedures. Individuals considering any type of surgical procedure that involves anesthesia should consider the risks involved and speak with their doctor regarding these risks ahead of time. 

  • Do you have high blood pressure?
  • Is there a history of complications with anesthesia medication? (Propofol, Fentinal, Tramadol etc?)
  • Are you on blood thinners? (Consider natural ones like turmeric, fish oil, and galabaloba, etc.)
  • Are you taking any supplements?
  • Do you have sleep apnea or use a sleep pap machine?
  • Is there a family history of malignant hypothermia?

Be sure to speak to your doctor about the previous questions to ensure anesthesia is suitable for you during surgery. 

How Do I Manage Pain During My Recovery?

After spine surgery, patients may experience significant pain depending on the procedure. 

Doctors may prescribe the patient medication to help manage pain and usually recommend avoiding all strenuous activity for at least one month following the procedure. It is usually recommended that patients use ice packs/hot packs to alleviate pain during recovery. 

Surgeons may subscribe patients to physical therapy to help them regain full mobility and help manage any lingering tightness or pain they may encounter. 

If dealing with significant pain during recovery is not for you, consider Deuk Spine Institute. A premier concierge spine surgery clinic and outpatient surgical center offering treatments designed to cure neck and back pain. Dr. Deuk uses minimally invasive surgical techniques and comprehensive spine treatments that allow patients to walk out of the recovery room. 

Patients that receive surgery at Deuk Spine Institute are up and walking within one hour of their procedure with testimonials stating, “... I was pain free...I dont have pain anymore. In two weeks you couldn’t even see where the incision was.”

If you want your recovery to be quick and ultimately pain free, learn more about Deuk Spine Institute by clicking here

 

 

 

3 Tips for a Successful Recovery After Spine Surgery

1. Self-care - 

Taking care of yourself after spine surgery is the fast track to a successful recovery. 

This self-care involves getting at least 8 hours of sleep per night. Sleep aids your body's natural healing process.

Help your body fall into a natural rhythm of sleep by going to bed and waking up at consistent times, avoid using electronics before bed, and be sure to avoid caffeine after 2 pm. 

Self-care also involves eating a healthy diet to avoid excess weight that can alter the healing of your lower back. Ensuring that you are providing your body with all the vitamins and nutrients it needs will help give you the proper building blocks for proper healing.

Avoid smoking and drinking. Nicotine can slow the rate that your body heals because it narrows the blood vessels. 

2. Walk! 

Recovering from spine surgery can leave individuals feeling immobile, but this should not be the case. During recovery, many doctors recommend that patients walk for at least 20 minutes a day. 

Walking helps muscles regain tone and strength, promoting a faster recovery and allowing individuals to restore mobility throughout the recovery period.  

Incorporating walking into daily routines should be discussed with your doctors beforehand. 

3. Pay attention to pain. 

After spine surgery, individuals need to be aware of what they are feeling. Contact your doctor if any recurring or sharp pain occurs because this could be a sign of a complication or infection. 

Do not ignore painful signs or infections. It is best to contact your doctor immediately when you feel any discomfort to ensure a quicker recovery. 

At the Deuk Spine Institute, we specialize in minimally-invasive surgical techniques. This means you have the quickest recovery time ahead of you, with the smallest possible surgical scar.

We offer a premier concierge spine surgery clinic and perform outpatient surgical techniques designed to effectively cure neck and back pain and get patients back as close to 100% as possible with minimal risks.

If you would like to enjoy premium patient-oriented care delivered by world-class physicians, contact us at Deuk Spine Institute today. We also offer free consultation on your MRI scan. Visit our site here to start your treatment.

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About Deuk Spine Institute
World leader in Laser Spine Surgery
With world-class physicians on staff, the newest and most advanced technology, and a patient experience pathway that is unrivaled in it’s efficiency and and pedagogy of care, Deuk Spine Institute has performed thousands of procedures and achieves a 95% success rate in elimination of pain.

 The services we offer are not offered anywhere else in the world, and the treatments are curative, not palliative.  On top of that, Dr. Deukmedjian is personally invested in the well-being of each and every patient, and has spared no expense to guarantee the best possible outcomes.
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