Surgical Option for Treating Degenerative Disc Disease
Degenerative disc disease is a condition in which the discs, located between the individual vertebra, deteriorates and break down. The discs no longer provide support between the vertebrae, which leads to pain and other symptoms.
Surgery is not an option often used for degenerative disc disease. Individuals must have undergone at least 6 months of other treatments that have not helped with the pain, have disc degeneration at just 1 or 2 levels, and be judged by a surgeon to be appropriate for the procedure.
Questions an individual may wish to ask their doctor prior to surgery include:
There are three main types of surgery that can be done for degenerative disc disease. Decompression surgery a procedure in which tissue that is putting pressure or pressing on a nerve is removed. Stabilization surgery or a fusion is a technique where 2 or more vertebrae are joined together. Artificial disc replacement or intervertebral disc arthroplasty involves the removal of a degenerated disc which is replaced by an artificial disc.
Spinal decompression surgery is a term that refers to any surgery or procedure that intends to relieve symptoms that are caused by pressure on the spinal cord or nerve roots. The risk associated with this surgery include: infection, bleeding, blood clots, and nerve or tissue damage.
Type of decompression surgery include:
Spinal fusion surgery is when two or more vertebrae are fused together preventing any motion between the vertebrae. This surgery is used to treat deformities of the spine, spinal instability, or herniated discs.
During the procedure, the doctor will place bone or bone like material between the two vertebrae to be fused. Metal plates, rods, screws, and cages may be used to hold the vertebrae together while the are fusing, so they can heal into one solid unit.
The risk associated with this surgery include: infection, bleeding, blood clots, poor wound healing, nerve or tissue damage, and pain from the site of a bone graft (if the individual’s own bone is used).
Artificial disc replacement or intervertebral disc arthroplasty is a procedure in which a degenerated disc is surgically removed and replaced with an artificial disc. The disc replacement surgery may be used in place of a spinal fusion in some cases, individuals should talk with their surgeon to see if this is possible for them.
The risk associated with this surgery include: infection, bleeding, blood clots, dislocation of the artificial disc implant, implant failure or fracture, loosening of the implant, poor placement of the implant, spinal stenosis, and stiffness or rigidity of the spine.
In some cases, an individual may require emergency surgery. If an individual is experiencing severe lower back pain along with weakness in the legs, pain traveling along the legs to the feet, and bladder or bowel incontinence, they should seek medical attention immediately. This could be Cauda Equina syndrome, a serious disorder that requires immediate intervention.