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Spinal surgery - lumbar

Definition

Lumbar spinal surgery is used to correct problems with the spinal bones (vertebrae), disks, or nerves of the lower back (lumbar spine).

See also:

Alternative Names

Lumbar spinal surgery

Description

The spine consists of bones (vertebrae) separated by soft cushions (disks). Pressure on the nerves that branch off the spinal cord can produce pain, numbness, tingling, or weakness.

Lumbar spinal surgery is done while you are under general anesthesia (unconscious and pain-free). A surgical cut is made over the area of the problem. The bone that curves around and covers the spinal cord and the tissue that presses on the nerve or spinal cord are removed.

The hole through which the nerve passes may be widened to prevent further pressure on the nerve. Sometimes, spinal fusion is necessary to stabilize the area.

Why the Procedure is Performed

Symptoms of lumbar spine problems that may require surgery at some point include:

  • Pain that extends (radiates) from the back to the buttocks or back of thigh
  • Pain that interferes with daily activities
  • Weakness of legs or feet
  • Numbness of legs, feet, or toes
  • Loss of bowel or bladder control

It's important to not that patients with spinal pain in the neck or back are usually treated conservatively before surgery is considered. This includes bedrest, anti-inflammatory medications, physical therapy, braces, and exercise. Maintaining good health, muscle strength, and body posture with appropriate rest and exercise help prevent unnecessary strain on the spine and muscles.

Risks

Risks for any anesthesia include the following:

  • Reactions to medications
  • Problems breathing
Risks for any surgery include the following:
  • Bleeding
  • Infection
Additional risks of spinal surgery include the following:

Outlook (Prognosis)

The outcome depends on what is causing the problem.

Recovery

How long you must stay in the hospital depends on the type of spinal surgery performed. Some people only say overnight, while others must stay in much longer.

You will be encouraged to walk the first or second day after surgery to reduce the risk of blood clots (deep venous thrombosis).

Complete recovery takes about 5 weeks. Heavy work is not recommended until several months after surgery or not at all.


Review Date: 5/12/2008
Reviewed By: Thomas N. Joseph, MD, Private Practice specializing in Orthopaedics, subspecialty Foot and Ankle, Camden Bone & Joint, Camden, SC. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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