Surgical Treatment Options for Spine Disorders

Our surgeons are experts in a full range of treatment options for disorders of the spine. Surgical treatments for these conditions include:

Spinal Decompression

Spinal decompression is a surgical procedure which is performed to alleviate pain caused by pinched nerves. During decompression back surgery, a small portion of the bone over the nerve root and/or disc material from under the nerve root is removed to give the nerve root more space and provide a better healing environment. Common spinal decompression techniques include: 

  • Laminectomy - In a laminectomy, the surgeon will remove a portion of the vertebral bone called the lamina in order to take pressure off the nerve roots and spinal cord. Laminectomies are often performed to treat spinal stenosis, in order to make more room for a patient’s spinal nerve and spinal cord.
  • Microdiscectomy – In a microdiscectomy, disc material under the nerve root is removed with the use of a microscope. Microdiscectomies are typically performed for a herniated lumbar disc and are shown to be effective for treating leg pain (radiculopathy). While it may take weeks or months for the nerve root to fully heal and any numbness or weakness to get better, patients normally feel relief from leg pain almost immediately after a microdiscectomy spine surgery.
Spinal Fusion

There are many different types of spinal fusion surgery, depending on the condition and the patient. All types are performed to limit pain and provide stability to the spine. During the surgery, the spinal disc(s) between two or more vertebrae is removed and the adjacent vertebrae are ‘fused’ by bone grafts and/or metal devices secured by screws. Spinal fusion may result in some loss of flexibility in the spine and requires a longer recovery period to allow bone grafts to grow and fuse the vertebrae together.

Each surgery is different depending on whether you are trying to treat degenerative disc disease, spondylolisthesis, or another condition. Often patients will require fusion between multiple levels, at the recommendation of the surgeon. The surgery requires a short stay in the hospital and a gradual recovery.

Learn more about Spinal Fusions by visiting our Medical Library

Minimally Invasive Spinal Surgery

Minimally invasive spine surgery is performed for a wide variety of problems, and is beneficial to many patients because it uses a smaller incision, preserves normal muscular structure, lowers infection rates, reduces blood loss, decreases post-surgical pain and shortens recovery time. Though not all conditions can be effectively treated with minimally invasive surgery, the neurosurgical spine surgeons at the Brigham and Women's Hospital can offer a wide array of innovative and cutting edge techniques for the full range of spinal problems.

Arthroplasty/Motion Preserving Surgery

Conventional techniques for spinal surgery have relied on the fusion of spinal bones to each other to treat pain and provide adequate structural support.  Following in the footsteps of breakthrough technology such as artificial knee and hip joints, artificial spinal disc replacement is now available. 

In properly selected patients, replacing cervical and/or lumbar discs can prevent the need for fusion surgery and allow for more normal spinal movement following surgery.  Recovery time is often faster and there is no need for special bracing.

Complex Spinal Reconstruction

Complex spinal reconstructive surgery may be necessary for patients with scoliosis or other spinal deformity. Reconstruction is typically an option when the spinal curvature or deformity is severe, and non-surgical methods are not successful. A surgeon may consider several different approaches to spinal reconstructive surgery. However, all approaches are performed in order to fix the curvature of the spine, usually stabilizing the spine with screws and rods that are implanted into the spine.

Spinal reconstruction is a complex surgery, and recovery time may be longer than other types of spine surgeries.  Brigham and Women’s Hospital neurosurgeons will work with nurses, physical therapists and occupational therapists to ensure the patient has a smooth and successful recovery. 

Multidisciplinary Spinal Tumor Surgery and Care

Proper diagnosis is paramount when selecting the appropriate surgery for spinal cord and nerve sheath tumors, which require delicate handling to prevent injury to normal spinal cord tissue. Surgery can be a highly effective method of preserving the ability to walk and decrease the tumor burden for other treatments to take effect.  Surgery is usually performed under a specialized microscope by neurosurgeons constantly monitoring the function of the spinal cord during surgery.

As part of Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center, a multidisciplinary team of physicians creates an individualized treatment plan for each patient in order to provide the best possible cancer care and treatment for patients with tumor metastasized to spine that causes pain or neurological symptoms.

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