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New Surgical Options For Chronic Back Pain

According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, 80 percent of Americans will suffer from back pain. While most people will find relief from their pain within days or weeks with just the help of over-the-counter pain relievers, there are new solutions that can help the thousands of people who suffer from chronic back pain each year.

The back is composed of a series of bones, joints, ligaments, nerves and muscles that all work together to help us move. As we age, however, the strength of our bones and the elasticity and tone of our muscles decrease and the discs lose their ability to cushion the vertebrae. This makes us more likely to experience one of the more common back injuries — including herniated discs, spinal stenosis, spondylolisthesis and degenerative
disc disease.

“Back problems can result in some of the more painful conditions, because it’s difficult to do any movement without using your back,” says Luis Mignucci, M.D., neurosurgeon on the medical staff at Presbyterian Hospital of Plano. “However, there are some new, promising solutions that can help get you on your feet again.”

Treatment Options
You don’t have to suffer with chronic back pain. Here are some of the newer advances in spinal surgery for common problems, as defined by the American Association of Neurological Surgeons:

Herniated discs occur when the disc’s gel-like center leaks and irritates the nerves. Patients can have a procedure called a laminectomy, during which a portion of the bone and ligament are removed through an incision in the spine to relieve the nerve irritation. Another possibility, for some people, is the microdiscectomy, which achieves the same results but is performed through a smaller incision.

Spinal stenosis occurs when the spinal canal narrows, usually because of osteoarthritis, and results in pain and, potentially, bladder and bowel control issues and problems walking. Surgeons typically perform a laminectomy or microdiscectomy to remove the bones
and bone spurs that are interfering with the spinal canal.

Spondylolisthesis is a condition that occurs when a vertebrae in the lower back slips out of place and causes the joints between the out-of-place vertebrae to enlarge and pinch spinal-column nerves. This is often treated with spinal fusion, a procedure that locks two or more vertebrae together to prevent additional slipping and immobilize the spine.

Degenerative disc disease occurs as the discs that make up the spine begin wearing away. While this problem can be treated with spinal fusion or disc replacement, the best treatment is non-surgical. The non-surgical treatments of weight loss and exercises to strengthen the core muscles of the trunk are the best ways to take the load off of the spine and prevent back pain.

If surgery is necessary, a new and promising treatment option is a lumbar fusion, which uses cadaver bone rings packed with genetically engineered bone producing proteins (BMP) to promote a bony fusion between the vertebrae in the problem area.

To learn more about back surgery options at Presbyterian Hospital of Plano, please call 1-800-4-Presby (1-800-477-3729). (Summer 2008)

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