Not everyone with spinal stenosis needs surgery. In fact, some people with spinal stenosis may not even know they have the degenerative spine condition because they don’t have any symptoms or problems.
But for those with symptomatic spinal stenosis that fails to improve with medical interventions, surgery is an option. What surgical techniques are best? That depends on you.
At Douglas J. Abeles MD & Associates in Castro Valley, California, our highly skilled orthopedic spinal surgeon, Dr. Douglas Abeles, uses a number of surgical methods to treat spinal stenosis, from conventional procedures to endoscopic techniques.
Here, we want to talk about the types of surgeries that can treat your spinal stenosis.
About spinal stenosis
Spinal stenosis means you have less space — narrowing — in your spinal canal.
Your spine is made up of a stack of vertebrae that run from your skull to your pelvis. These bones support the weight of your upper body, protect your spinal cord, and serve as an exit point for the nerves that go to the rest of your body.
Spinal stenosis reduces the amount of space in the spinal canal for the spinal cord and the exit points for the spinal nerves. This narrowing may affect any part of your spine, but most often occurs in the lower back (lumbar spine) or neck (cervical spine)
The structures that make up your spine may compress or irritate the spinal cord or spinal nerves, causing neck or back pain, numbness or tingling that radiates into the arms or legs, or muscle weakness.
You can have narrowing in your spine and not have any symptoms. But when symptoms start, they tend to worsen over time.
When it comes to treating spinal stenosis, we take an individualized approach. But we usually start with medical interventions like anti-inflammatory medication and physical therapy to reduce symptoms.
If you continue to have symptoms from spinal stenosis or your symptoms get worse, we consider surgery. We may also recommend surgery if the narrowing in your spine causes serious problems like loss of bowel or bladder control.
Types of spinal stenosis surgery
The goal of surgery for spinal stenosis is to improve spinal spacing to ease symptoms. This may involve removing some of the vertebral bone, bone spurs (bony overgrowth), or a herniated disc.
Types of surgeries for spinal stenosis include:
During a laminectomy, or decompression surgery, we remove the lamina, which is the part of the spine you feel when you run your fingers down the center of your back. We may also remove bone spurs and ligaments during a laminectomy.
If you have pain that radiates into your arms or legs, we may perform a spinal fusion. For a spinal fusion, we join two of your vertebral bones together. We remove the intervertebral disc and the lamina and use a bone grafting material that fuses the two bones together.
Surgical techniques for spinal stenosis
When performing surgery for spinal stenosis we may use traditional open surgical methods or minimally invasive techniques.
Traditional open spine surgery
During a traditional open surgery, our spine surgeon makes a large incision through your skin to gain access to the area of the spine undergoing surgery. This technique allows us to see all of your spine, but requires us to cut through skin and muscle.
Endoscopic spine surgery
Endoscopic spine surgery is a minimally invasive surgical technique. During this type of surgery, we use an endoscope — a thin, flexible tube with a light and camera — that allows us to see the surgical area without the need for a large incision.
We then insert tiny surgical tools through the endoscope to perform your laminectomy or spinal fusion.
You can expect less post-surgical pain and a shorter recovery following minimally invasive spine surgery (MISS). We customize surgical plans using the techniques that provide you with the best outcomes.
Not everyone with spinal stenosis needs surgery, but when you do, you want the best possible outcomes. Schedule a consultation with our spine surgeon to discuss surgery for your spinal stenosis by calling our office in Castro Valley, California, today.