UVNN takes a minimally invasive approach to lumbar surgery whenever possible, utilizing intraoperative computer-assisted imaging to lessen the patient’s recovery time and promote healing.
Awarded best-in-class for overall patient care by US News and World Report, our surgeons use modern surgical techniques and integrate the most up-to-date medical research to provide patients with the best possible care.
What is Lumbar Surgery?
Lumbar surgery is a broad term that encompasses various surgical procedures performed on the lumbar spine (lower back). It includes interventions aimed at addressing specific conditions or abnormalities in the lumbar region and may involve decompression, fusion, discectomy (removal of a damaged or herniated disc), spinal instrumentation, or other techniques depending on the patient’s condition and the goals of surgery. Surgery may be recommended to treat patient’s with:
- Severe and persistent lower back pain that is sometimes felt in the hips or legs
- Nerve compression (pinched nerve) and related symptoms
- Loss of nerve function
Symptoms of a Lumbar Disorder
- Severe and persistent pain
- Nerve compression symptoms
- Progressive neurological deficits
- Loss of bladder or bowel control
- Structural abnormalities in the lumbar spine
- Impaired quality of life
Causes of a Lumbar Disorder
- Strained or sprained muscles
- Slipped or herniated disc
- Degeneration of intervertebral discs
- Narrowing of the spinal canal (spinal stenosis)
- Vertebra slippage (spondylolisthesis)
- Osteoarthritis in the lumbar region
- Trauma or injury to the lower back
- Poor posture and body mechanics
- Infections or inflammation
Types of Lumbar Surgery
Three common types of lumbar surgery include lumbar fusion, lumbar decompression, and lumbar discectomy.
Lumbar Fusion: Lumbar fusion is a surgical procedure that aims to stabilize the spine by fusing two or more vertebrae together. It involves removing the damaged disc or portion of the vertebra and replacing it with a bone graft or artificial spacer. The adjacent vertebrae are then fused together, promoting stability and reducing pain caused by movement or spinal instability. Lumbar fusion may be recommended for conditions such as degenerative disc disease, spondylolisthesis, or spinal fractures.
Lumbar Decompression: A surgery performed to alleviate pressure on the spinal cord or nerve roots. This procedure involves removing a portion of the bone or soft tissue that is compressing the spinal cord, providing relief from conditions like spinal stenosis or herniated discs. By creating more space for the spinal cord and nerve roots, lumbar decompression surgery can relieve symptoms such as lower back pain, leg pain, weakness, numbness, or tingling. This procedure is often considered when conservative treatments have not been effective.
Lumbar Discectomy: Lumbar discectomy is a surgical procedure designed to treat herniated discs in the lumbar spine. A herniated disc occurs when the soft inner material of a spinal disc protrudes through its outer layer, putting pressure on nearby nerves. During a lumbar discectomy, the surgeon removes the herniated portion of the disc, relieving pressure on the nerves and reducing pain, numbness, or weakness in the lower back and legs. This procedure can be performed using minimally invasive techniques, leading to smaller incisions and faster recovery times.
Lumbar Surgery: What to Expect
Before lumbar surgery, patients undergo a comprehensive medical evaluation that may include a physical exam, imaging tests such MRI and X-ray, and blood work. Once the patient is cleared for surgery, UVNN’s patient care team will give specific instructions to prepare the patient for the day of surgery. It is important for patients to follow these instructions closely to ensure a successful surgical outcome and minimize any potential complications. Lumbar surgery is commonly performed under general anesthesia. The surgical approach will vary depending on the type of lumbar surgery the patient requires, their medical history, and current level of health.
Post Operative Care
Patients should plan for adequate rest and limited physical activity for several weeks following lumbar surgery. While many patients experience significant improvement in their symptoms soon after surgery, full recovery may take several months. Adhering to post operative care instructions and attending follow-up appointments is crucial for a successful recovery. Physical therapy sessions are often prescribed to help regain strength and mobility in the treated area.
Risks and Complications
As with any surgical procedure, lumbar surgery carries some risks and potential complications. However, serious complications are rare, and most patients achieve positive outcomes.
Risks may include:
- Nerve or spinal cord injury
- Blood clots
- Adjacent level degeneration
- Failed back syndrome or recurrent instability