Frequently Asked Questions
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Frequently Asked Questions

Regional Spine Center...What to Expect

Q: What are the different types of spine surgery?

A: There are several different types of spine surgery, and your surgeon will discuss what type he recommends for you. In general, the most common spine surgeries at the Regional Spine Center (RSC) are:

  • Spinal fusion: two or more vertebrae are fused together to improve their stability
  • Laminectomy: a portion of the vertebra is removed to relieve pressure on the spinal cord or nearby nerves
  • Diskectomy: a portion of a disk is removed to relieve pressure on the spinal cord or nearby nerves

Q: What are the primary benefits of spine surgery?
A: The two primary benefits of spine surgery are pain relief and improved activity tolerance. These two factors allow most people to maintain a more active lifestyle and that can lead to other health benefits such as weight management and reducing risk of heart disease, for example.

Q: How long will the benefits of surgery last?
A: It's impossible to predict how long the benefits of surgery will last, since factors such as age, weight, activity level and bone strength all play a role. Most patients experience pain relief and improved activity tolerance for many years. However, a small percentage of people receiving spine surgery will require another surgery at some point in time.

Q: How has spine surgery improved in recent years?
A: Highly-trained and experienced orthopedic surgeons and neurosurgeons use specialized technologies and advanced surgical equipment to make spine surgery a highly successful procedure. The RSC surgeons utilize minimally-invasive and microsurgery techniques that require a much smaller incision than traditional back surgery. This results in less blood loss, less swelling and pain, improved muscle function after surgery. All of these factors allow patients to have a more rapid recovery and shorter hospital stay than was common several years ago.

Q: What other considerations are associated with spine surgery?

  • Other health problems must be under control. If you have a medical condition such as heart or lung disease, you will need clearance from your physician to have spine surgery.
  • If you develop an infection such as a cold virus prior to surgery, this can cause complications. Notify your surgeon if you become ill just prior to surgery.
  • Weight management will decrease the amount of stress on your heart and lungs after surgery. Excessive weight can slow your recovery, so if possible, consider a weight loss program prior to surgery. You'll find helpful information on weight loss and nutrition later in this binder.
  • The speed and quality of your recovery depend largely on you. While there will be some discomfort after surgery, you must be willing to follow the instructions of your nurses and/or therapists for activity so that your recovery will progress smoothly.

Q: Will there be a lot of pain after the surgery?
A: As with any surgery, especially one that involves a weight bearing structure such as the spine, there will be some pain following surgery and during your recovery. However, our surgeons use minimally-invasive techniques that can reduce pain and speed recovery; our anesthesiologists and pain management specialists are trained in the most advanced pain management therapies and will work with you to control pain as much as possible. Typically, the sooner after surgery you can get up and move around, the quicker pain and soreness will diminish. Many factors including your general health and activity level impact the effectiveness of pain medications. Please discuss pain management options with your surgeon if you have specific concerns.