1. What are the causes of disorders to the Spine?
The spine is a complex structure consisting of bone, ligament, disc, muscle joints which protect the spinal cord. Any of those can cause problems which include, infections, inflammations, injuries, tumours, congenital problems, age related osteoporosis, degeneration.
2. What are the solutions available to manage spinal disorders?
Treatments differ by disease. Majority of spinal disorders can be managed without surgery. The other treatments include physiotherapy and lifestyle changes. Occasionally alternative treatment like massage and acupuncture may work.
3. Under what conditions will a spinal surgery be deemed the optimal solution?
When all conservative treatments fail and the patient suffers from persistent pain, surgery may be essential. Some conditions like trauma and tumours will require surgery for treatment. Degenerative disc and back pain problem can be managed most of the time without surgery, but may be essential if it causes neurological problems. Some congenital abnormalities will need surgical correction.
4. What are the risks involved in undergoing a spine surgery?
Any operation will have some degree of risk, including, reaction to anesthesia or other drugs, bleeding, infection, blood clots, for instance in your legs or lungs, heart attack and stroke. These risks are extremely rare. Specific to the spine some of the complications that can occur are -
a) Damage to spinal cord or nerves which is less than 0.5 %
b) Instability of the spine, post-surgery
c) Worsening of back pain - extremely rare
d) Loss of bowel and bladder function - extremely rare
5. How long will it take to recover after a spine surgery?
Depending on the type of surgery, your stay in hospital would last from 1 - 5 days normally. For minimally invasive and endoscopic spine procedures, the stay is less than 2 days. For open surgery, it usually will be about 3 - 5 days. In almost all surgeries you would be up and about in 24 - 48 hours. You will be able to perform normal daily activities in 5 - 7 days and in most cases, you will be able to return to work in 3 - 4 days.
6. Can normal life be resumed after a spine surgery? Are there any dos and don'ts?
Yes, patient can lead a normal life after spine surgery. Recovery from surgery is an ongoing process and it depends on the type of surgery. You will be recommended physiotherapy to start from 2 - 4 weeks to resume normal activities. If you did not have any serious disability before the surgery, you will be able to return to complete normal life and work in a few weeks. With minimally invasive spine surgery, you will be able to return to work in 2 - 3 weeks. The myth that you cannot perform the same level of activities after surgery is totally wrong.
Interview with Dr. G. Balamurali, MBBS, MRCS(Ed), MD(UK), FRCS (Neurosurgery)
Lead Consultant Spine & Neurosurgeon