Spine and Neck Surgery
This spine plays a critical role in giving you mobility and stability. But it can also be extremely vulnerable to injury. Whether you’re dealing with a spine injury, a congenital birth defect or deformity, or chronic back problems, the spine and neck experts at Parkview Ortho Hospital can help.
Anatomy of the spine
The spine is a complex structure that includes a variety of bones, nerves, fluids and muscles woven together. It’s designed to be incredibly strong, yet highly flexible. The spine allows you to bend forward and backward, and twist.
The spine is made up of several components:
- Vertebrae are bones shaped like building blocks. There are 33 vertebrae stacked on top of one another to support your entire body. These vertebrae include: seven vertebrae of the cervical spine located in your neck, 12 thoracic vertebrae in your chest area, five lumbar vertebrae in your lower back, five fused vertebrae and four fused coccygeal vertebrae located in your buttock region.
- The spinal cord is a cylindrical bundle of nerves that encloses the spine. The spinal cord connects nearly all parts of the body to the brain.
- Discs are cushions between each vertebrae.
- Fluids also serve as a cushion that protects the spine and brain from injury.
- The extensor muscles are attached to the back of the spine, and they enable standing and lifting.
- The flexor muscles are attached to the front of the spine, which includes the abdominal muscles. They enable flexing, bending forward, lifting and arching the lower back.
- The oblique muscles are attached to the sides of the spine. They help rotate the spine and maintain proper posture.
Common causes of spine and neck pain
When a spinal injury occurs, symptoms can include back and neck pain, arm or leg pain, weakness, numbness or tingling. Back and neck pain can cause limited mobility, disability and significant decrease in quality of life.
Common causes of spine and neck pain include:
- Spine degeneration. This involves the gradual loss of normal structure and function of the spine over time. Spine degeneration is usually caused by natural wear and tear, but injury, poor posture or diseases can also lead to degeneration. This can cause neck or arm pain, numbness or weakness in the hands, difficulty walking, leg muscle spasms or loss of coordination.
- Herniated disc. A herniated disc is also called a ruptured disc. This occurs when a disc ruptures out and pushes against the spinal nerves. The pressure on the nerves may cause pain, numbness, tingling and weakness.
- Arthritis (osteoarthritis). With age and normal wear and tear, the bones can rub together and cause inflammation and pain. When the bones rub, painful bone spurs (calcium deposits on the bone) can form. Your physician may refer to this as joint deterioration, joint narrowing or bone-on-bone.
- Spinal instability. The vertebrae can slide back and forth from trauma or spinal injury. This causes pain, numbness and weakness.
- Spinal stenosis. Spinal stenosis is a narrowing of the opening in the spinal canal. This is often caused by bulging of the disc and/or enlargement of the bone and ligaments. This is common with age, and may cause pressure on the nerves, swelling, pain, numbness or weakness.
- Spondylolisthesis. This is a bone defect where the vertebrae slips. This can inflame the nerves and cause pain. This may be present at birth, or it can develop later in life.
A number of treatment options are available to help relieve spine and neck problems:
- Physical therapy
- Nerve block injections
- Surgical repair
Surgical repair options
The decision to pursue a surgical repair option – as well as determining what option is best for you – should be a collaborative one among you, your family, your primary care physician and your orthopedic surgeon.
Common surgical repair options include:
If you suffer from spinal stenosis, your orthopedic surgeon may recommend a laminectomy. During this procedure, your surgeon will make a small incision – about 2 to 5.5 inches – along the midline of the lower back. He will then remove the portion of the vertebrae called the lamina that is putting pressure on the nerves. Once your surgeon confirms that the pressure has been relieved from the nerves, he will close your incision and apply a sterile bandage or dressing.
Your orthopedic surgeon might recommend a discectomy if you have a herniated disc in your lower back, or if a portion of a disc in your lower back is damaged. The purpose of this procedure is to relieve symptoms cause by the pressure that a herniated disc places on spinal nerves. During this procedure, your surgeon will remove the herniated, or damaged portion, of a disc in your spine. He will close your incision and apply a sterile bandage or dressing.
A kyphoplasty is a surgical procedure to relieve pain caused by a spinal fracture, to stabilize the bone and to restore some, or all of, the lost vertebral body height due to the fracture. During this procedure, your orthopedic surgeon will make a small incision in our back, through which he will place a narrow tube. The tube helps create a path to the fractured area. Then, using X-ray images, your surgeon will insert a balloon-like device. This is used to create space in the fractured vertebrae, returning the vertebrae to a more normal position. Then, a cement-like material is added into the spine to help stabilize it. Once this is done, your surgeon will remove the deflate the balloon-like device and remove it, along with the tube. Then, he will close your incision and apply a sterile bandage or dressing.
If you have pain caused by misalignment or instability of the vertebrae, your orthopedic surgeon may recommend a spinal fusion. The purpose of this procedure is to stop the motion at a painful vertebral segment, which can relieve pain cause by the joint. There are several approaches to a spinal fusion, but all involve these basic steps:
- Your surgeon will make a small incision in your back.
- He will then add a piece of bone is placed between the two vertebrae so that the bone grows together and fuses that part of the spine.
- The fusion, which results in one fixed bone replacing a mobile joint, stops the motion at that joint segment.
- Your surgeon will then close your incision and apply a sterile bandage or dressing.
A spinal fixation, also called a vertebral fixation, is a surgical procedure to reduce vertebral mobility. This can help prevent possible damage to the spinal cord. During this procedure, your surgeon will make a small incision in your back. He will then anchor two or more vertebrae to each other using synthetic plates, roads and screws. After, he will close your incision and apply a sterile bandage or dressing.