Spinal surgery

Spinal surgery sits at the interface between neurosurgery and orthopaedic surgery. It is concerned in particular with the treatment of diseases of the spine, such as traumas, deformities and deviations, tumours and degenerative diseases (for example osteoarthritis).

What sort of pain brings patients to the spinal surgery department?

Most frequently, patients are suffering from back pain in the lower part of the spine. But persistent neck pain may also result in them visiting the spine surgeon.

If a disc is pressing on a nerve, this pain may radiate to your arms or legs. The sensory disturbances, pain or paralysis depend on where in the spinal column the disorder is located.

The bone marrow runs through a bone channel within the vertebrae. Sometimes this channel becomes constricted in the lower part of the back (spinal canal stenosis). In this case, pain occurs in the legs at times but then disappears again when you change position.

When is spinal surgery required?

Back pain is a frequent problem. It can be effectively treated using non-surgical procedures in the majority of cases (up to 90%). These include physiotherapy, changing behaviour to become more active, pain management and much more.

If the clinical picture worsens, sensory disturbances and paralysis may occur. Depending on how great the impact on the patient is, their doctor may consider operating on their spine.

The chances of the operation being successful are a decisive factor here. The doctors in the spinal surgery department weigh up the benefits and the risks for each individual patient.

How is spinal surgery carried out?

The doctor chooses to access the spine at the point where the disorder is located. They may access the spine from the front, i.e. from the abdomen, or from the back.

Operations on the spine may be either invasive or minimally invasive. With the invasive method, the surgeon reaches the spine via a long skin incision.

A minimally invasive operation can be achieved with four small skin incisions. The doctor then inserts their surgical tools and a camera into the body through these incisions. This enables them to see their movements on a screen.

The decision as to which method to use will depend on the clinical picture and the general health of the patient in question.

Are there risks involved with spinal surgery?

Inside the spine there is bone marrow with nerves. This structure is highly sensitive. The spine surgeon must operate extremely carefully and they employ the latest surgical techniques to help them with this.

As with any surgical procedure, there is a risk of infection. It is also possible that the wound may not heal well or that there are issues with the scar formation.

Most operations in the spinal surgery department need to be carried out under general anaesthetic. However, general anaesthesia can present a risk for patients with pre-existing conditions.

The doctors are aware of the benefits and risks involved with each operation and choose the best possible treatment for their patients.

How long will I have to wait after spinal surgery until I can move normally again?

How things progress after spinal surgery depends on the extent and the location of the surgical procedure. Patients spend the first few days in the clinic.

The majority of them manage to stand up for the first time at the clinic after one to two days. This means that their back is quickly mobilised and bearing weight.

Following their stay in the spinal surgery department, patients then either go straight home or go on to a rehabilitation clinic. The patients should take it easy to start off with. Once their wound has healed, rehabilitation can begin with the aim of regaining full mobility.