Spine Surgical Options | Hip Surgery | Knee Surgery | TMJ Disorders Surgical Options

Spine Disorder Surgical Options

While studies show that more than half of spine surgeries are unnecessary, there are times when surgery is the answer. Below are common spine surgeries used to treat spine disorders.

Lumbar Discectomy

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An injury, or damage from a lifting incident, may cause the jelly center to break through the wall of the disc. When the disc herniates, the jelly center can press on nearby nerves. This causes back or leg pain when the herniation is in the low back, and arm pain if the disc is in the neck area.

In a lumbar discectomy, the surgeon typically only removes the portion of the disc that is causing a problem, not the entire disc. If you have a herniated disc, keep in mind that a disc has a purpose. When you remove a disc, it may cause instability in the joint, and a surgeon may recommend a fusion to re-stabilize the area.

Cervical Discectomy

Cervical is the medical term for "neck." Just as in a lumbar discectomy, the surgeon will remove a piece of damaged disc tissue in the neck area to relieve pressure on the spinal cord or nerve roots. In some cases, by removing a piece of the shock-absorbing disc that separates the two vertebrae, the structures may become less stable. Consequently, when the disc is removed, a surgeon may recommend "fusing" the vertebrae to prevent instability. This fusion surgery may require a second incision in the front of the neck to gain access to the disc area. A cervical discectomy is best left to surgeons who specialize in spine.


A surgeon may use bone from the patient's hip or from a bone bank to stabilize two vertebrae after a discectomy. During a fusion surgery, the disc is removed, and the surgeon inserts a small wedge of bone in between the two vertebrae to restore the disc space. Over time, the two vertebrae "fuse" together into a solid structure. While this limits movement and flexibility, it can also help to ease pain.


A laminectomy involves the removal of part or all of the bone covering the spinal canal. The purpose of this procedure can be to free nerve roots, remove a tumor, bone spur or to perform certain types of fusion procedures.

Removing the lamina (laminectomy) is much like removing the cover on a fuse box to access the wiring. By removing the lamina, the surgeon gains access to the disc area and frees more space for the nerves inside.

A laminectomy is often used to treat recurrent disc herniations, or where scar tissue is involved. Laminectomy may also be used in cases of spinal stenosis in which the entire canal is narrowed like a ring on a swollen finger.


Rhizotomy is a procedure in which the physician may use heat or cold to intentionally damage the ability of a problematic nerve to telegraph pain signals to the brain. While pain signals serve to warn us about danger or injury, sometimes a nerve can end up in a "stuck" position, sending a continuous pain signal to the brain.

"Neuroablation" is another word used to describe the surgical procedure to purposely inhibit the nerve's ability to transmit a pain signal. During the procedure, the spine surgeon can destroy the problematic nerve by cutting it or by using extreme heat or cold. This intentional "short circuit" can be temporary or permanent, depending upon the procedure.

Dorsal Column Stimulation

Dorsal column stimulation, also known as spinal cord stimulation, is used in complex cases of back pain that cannot be resolved nonsurgically or with another surgery. In most cases, it is used when leg pain is worse than back pain. The intent of dorsal column stimulation is to use an electrical signal, instead of drugs, to mask pain that cannot be removed any other way.

During this procedure, the patient is awake, and the surgeon delicately places tiny electrodes under the skin in the back. At that point, a tiny electrical current is transmitted through the wires to the desired location in the back. This sensation feels like a tiny tickle, as the electrical current interrupts the pain signal that may be sent to the brain from the damaged nerve. The patient helps instruct the surgeon as to which electrical setting and placement of wires produces the most pain relief. It is important to note that this technique is only used in the most extreme cases of back and leg pain.


Hip Replacement Surgery

Total hip replacement surgery has been shown to provide successful outcomes for 90-95 percent of those who qualify. According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, over 193,000 hip replacements are performed each year. The procedure has helped countless patients achieve a return to function and activity.

Current developments in hip replacement surgery involve using new, advanced materials to extend the life of the total joint replacement. These materials include titanium, ceramic and new plastic joint liners.


Knee Replacement Surgery

Quality of life is never to be underestimated and when a knee problem is so debilitating that it is impossible to enjoy hobbies that are important to you like gardening or playing with your children or grandchildren, than it is crucial to seek medical help.

Fortunately, before even considering knee replacement surgery as an option, generally physicians will try to find other ways of assuaging the pain. For instance, physical therapy, analgesics and walking aids might be the answer to many knee problems including those stemming from arthritis.

However, it is also nice to know that when other treatments prove to be futile, knee replacement surgery is an option. So prevalent is this surgery, in fact, that over 250,000 knee surgeries are performed each year in the United States alone. It is estimated that in 2040, more than 500,000 knee and hip replacement surgeries will be performed due to the influx in aging Baby Boomers. Knee replacement will help renew the ability to participate in several fun, day to day activities such as gardening, going on walks, golfing, and overall mobility. It is important to try other options before knee replacement surgery, however, since they only last for 15 to 20 years and are not easily replaced. For this reason, physicians are very selective about the types of candidates for the surgery.


TMJ Disorders

Surgical options available for TMJ Disorders include the following:

  • Corrective dental treatment. Your dentist may improve your bite by balancing the biting surfaces of your teeth, replacing missing teeth, or replacing needed fillings or crowns.

  • Arthrocentesis. In this procedure, a needle is inserted into the joint so that fluid is irrigated through the joint to remove debris and inflammatory byproducts by inserting a needle into the joint using this procedure.

  • Surgery. If less invasive approaches don't work, your doctor or dentist may refer you to an oral and maxillofacial surgeon. Surgery to repair or remove the disk between your mandible and temporal bone may be beneficial. In cases when advanced osteoarthritis is present, a partial or total joint replacement may help remove bone-on-bone contact and improve joint mechanics and motion.