Spine Terms Made Easy for You

03 Oct 2017

Spine Surgery: When you say spine surgery, it means a surgical procedure on any part of the long column of 33 bones that provides main support for the body, and allows you to stand upright, bend, twist — all this while housing and protecting the spinal cord.

Now spine surgery can be any of these:

  • Lumbar Spine Surgery
  • Lumbar Decompression Surgery
  • Lumbar Fusion
  • Cervical Spine Surgery
  • Disc Surgery

There are also several types of back surgery:

  • Diskectomy / Discectomy : In this procedure, the herniated portion of a disc is removed to relieve irritation and inflammation of a nerve. The disc surgery or discectomy typically involves full or partial removal of the back portion of a vertebra (lamina) to access the ruptured disc. Nowadays there is minimally invasive spine surgery or discectomy done in several multi-specialty hospitals where the procedure is performed endoscopically through a tubular device and designed to relieve pain caused by the herniated disc pressing on nerve roots. Discectomy is usually performed under either partial on general anaesthesia.
  • Laminectomy : This kind of back surgery is where a space is created by removing the lamina — the back part of the vertebra that covers your spinal canal. It is also known as decompression surgery. Laminectomy enlarges your spinal canal to relieve pressure on the spinal cord or nerves, caused by spinal stenosis. The procedure involves the removal of the bone overlying the spinal canal.
  • Fusion : Spinal fusion permanently connects two or more bones in your spine. It can relieve pain by adding stability to a spinal fracture. It is occasionally used to eliminate painful motion between vertebrae that can result from a degenerated or injured disk. Fusion surgery is major procedure, usually lasting several hours. A bone, taken from the pelvis or bone bank, is used to make a bridge between vertebrae that are next to each other. This bone graft helps new bone grow. Metal implants are usually used to hold the vertebrae together until new bone grows between them.
  • Artificial disks : Implanting artificial discs are an alternative treatment to spinal fusion surgery. This is performed for painful movement between two vertebrae due to a degenerated or injured disk. This is a relatively new kind of treatment similar in theory to the artificial knee, hip or shoulder surgery. The artificial disc replacement is arguably becoming more popular and discussed more frequently as an option. Through this procedure, relief is brought about by removing the painful disc and motion is maintained using a prosthetic implant made of metal (with or without a plastic bearing surface).

Spine surgeon: A surgeon, be it of orthopaedic speciality or neurosciences speciality, who specializes in procedures relating exclusively to spine. Any qualified doctor, who specializes in the treatment of spine exclusively, is called as the spine specialist. Years ago, only neuro specialists were primarily specializing as spine specialists, but in the past 20 to 25 years spine surgeons have evolved from the parent specialities of both neurosurgery and orthopaedic surgery. For most of the typical spine surgeries, both types of surgeons are equally well qualified. In both specialities, the spine surgeons may subspecialize in cervical spine surgery, lumbar spine surgery, hand and wrist surgery, plastic surgery, or in other areas or procedures.

Endoscopic spine surgery: It is a newest type of spine surgery which uses advanced surgical tools and powerful magnifying systems. In endoscopic spine surgery, the spinal surgeon can insert advanced surgical instrument through a small skin incision. With the assistance of an advanced endoscope and x-ray guidance, the surgeon can easily identify the problem — for e.g. disc herniation or bone spur — and perform the surgery accordingly. Endoscopic spine surgery offers several advantages: it is a minimally invasive spine surgery as compared to the traditional open surgery, there is minimal tissue damage, minimal to no blood loss, high efficiency, low complication rates, and quick recovery. Most of the endoscopic spine surgeries can be done at an outpatient setting and do not require a hospital stay. Anterior cervical discectomy and fusion: ACDF is a type of neck surgery that involves removing a damaged disc to relieve spinal cord or nerve root pressure and alleviate corresponding pain, weakness, numbness, and tingling. This is a form of surgical decompression, so the procedure may also be called an anterior cervical decompression. This spine surgery is approached through the or front of the cervical spine (neck), thus is called anterior cervical discectomy. The disc is then removed from between two vertebral bones. While this surgery is most commonly done to treat a cervical herniated disc, it may also be done for cervical degenerative disc disease. There are two parts to this kind of cervical spine surgery: first is the discectomy, performed on the cervical spine through the front and there is a fusion surgery done at the same time to provide stability and strength to the area.