Spine Clinic Surgical Treatments

When other, more conservative treatments do not relieve suffering from back or neck pain, a number of surgical treatments are available. The goal of spine surgery is to ease pain and protect nerve structures by relieving pressure on the nerves that are causing the problem. Sometimes surgery is also used to stabilize the spinal structures.

Spine surgery is often successful in relieving pain. When patients are properly selected for surgery, most experience a better quality of life after surgery. They are able to move more freely and need fewer pain mediations. It is important to remember, however, that spine surgery does not always completely cure a back or neck condition and changes continue to occur as we age. At Virginia Mason, we rely on multidisciplinary teams to find the right approach — surgical or non-surgical.

At Virginia Mason our surgeons are skilled in performing a variety of spine surgeries, including: 

The spine surgeons at Virginia Mason are nationally recognized for their expertise and advocacy for determining the right treatment for each patient. Our surgeons are board-certified, and involved in researching best practices to minimize surgical complications.

In addition, our complex spine surgery specialists are renowned for their surgical skill in rebuilding deformed spines for people with severe scoliosis or kyphosis.

Spinal Fusion

Spinal fusion is a surgical procedure done to permanently join two or more vertebrae in the spine into one solid bone. It is typically done in the lower back or neck to increase stability. It is often combined with procedures to relieve pressure on nerve structures that may be compressed.

Spinal fusion can improve the quality of life for people who have:

During a spinal fusion operation, the surgeon first removes the lamina (the back portion of the spine) to create room for the nerves. Any loose pieces of bone are cleared out. A bone graft — often taken from a patient’s pelvic area — is attached to the vertebra with hardware such as screws or rods. In the neck, a metal plate is typically used instead of metal rods.

Over time, fusion takes place as the bone grafts grow and one solid bone is formed. This can take up to a year. A back brace is usually worn for up to six weeks after surgery to help provide stability and protect the spine.

Laminectomy

A laminectomy is done to relieve pressure and pain in your spine, or to remove bone spurs or to treat spinal stenosis. Laminectomy is more commonly done in patients whose sciatica does not improve with conservative treatment, or which is very severe and involves muscle weakness.

The procedure involves removing part or all of the lamina — the back portion of the spine — on both sides of the spine to create more space for spinal nerves. It is also done as part of spinal fusion surgery.

After surgery, patients are encouraged to get up and walk as soon as the anesthesia wears off. Most go home one to three days after surgery, if they have not had a spinal fusion done at the same time.

Formainotomy

Nerves from your spinal cord connect to the rest of your body through openings in your spinal column called "neural foramina." When the openings for these nerves become narrowed as a result of arthritis, a herniated disc or other degenerative changes, pressure on those nerves can cause pain.

Formainotomy is surgery to widen the openings to take pressure off the nerves. During the operation, some bone is cut or shaved away to create more space, and any loose disc fragments are removed.

After surgery, most people are able to get out of bed and sit up within the first few hours, and go home the next day. If your formainotomy was done on your neck, you will likely wear a soft neck collar for a time after you leave the hospital.

Discectomy

Discectomy is surgery to remove a ruptured or herniated disc.

When part of a disc moves out of place, some of the soft gel inside the disc can break through the tougher outer wall. This can put pressure on the spinal cord and spinal nerves, and cause pain. During a discectomy, the part of the disc that is bulging out between the vertebrae is removed.

After the surgery, most people go home the same day. They typically have relief from their pain and can function much better. For more information about surgical treatments, call (206) 417-7463.

Note: Corpectomy is a procedure to remove diseased or damaged vertebrae and discs. It is a combination of formainotomy, discectomy and spinal fusion.