Spine surgery is a broad field encompassing various procedures that help address different spinal conditions. There are various types of spine surgery, including artificial disk replacement and spinal fusion.

Spine surgery can range from minimally invasive interventions that allow for quicker recovery times to more extensive procedures that may require longer recovery periods. The type of spine surgery a surgeon chooses to use depends mostly on the condition they are managing.

This article examines various types of spine surgery and how they work.

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Artificial disk replacement is a surgical procedure that involves replacing a damaged or degenerated spinal disk with an artificial version.

How it works

The surgeon accesses the spine through an incision in the abdomen, for lumbar disk replacement, or the neck, for cervical disk replacement. They then remove the damaged disk and insert an artificial disk into the space to restore height and movement between the vertebrae. A vertebrae refers to each of the bones comprising the spine.

Learn about spinal problems.

Corpectomy involves the removal of the vertebral body, usually due to:

Surgeons often perform it as part of a procedure to relieve pressure on the spinal cord or nerves.

How it works

Depending on the vertebra’s location, the surgeon makes an incision in the neck or back. They remove the affected vertebral body and may fill the space with a bone graft or a spinal cage to maintain spine alignment.

Corpectomy often requires stabilization with spinal fusion.

Diskectomy is the surgical removal of a portion of a herniated disk that is pressing on a nerve root or the spinal cord.

How it works

Surgeons can perform a diskectomy as an open surgery or minimally invasive, which is known as a microdiskectomy. The surgeon accesses the affected disk and removes the herniated or damaged portion to relieve pressure on the spinal nerves.

Foraminotomy relieves pressure on compressed nerves through the foramina, which are the passageways through which the spinal nerves exit the spine.

How it works

The surgeon enlarges the foramen by removing bone or tissue that is compressing the nerve. Surgeons can perform it as a stand-alone technique or in combination with other procedures, such as a laminectomy or diskectomy.

Laminectomy is also known as decompression surgery. It involves the removal of the lamina, which is part of the vertebra that covers the spinal canal, to increase the size of the spinal canal and relieve pressure on the spinal cord or nerves.

How it works

For this surgery, the surgeon removes the lamina of one or more vertebrae to relieve pressure on the spinal nerves. Surgeons often perform this surgery on people with spinal stenosis.

Nucleoplasty is a minimally invasive procedure to treat herniated disks causing nerve compression.

How it works

The surgeon uses a needle-like device to apply radiofrequency energy or cold therapy to the disk. This helps reduce its size and relieve pressure on the spinal nerves.

Surgeons often consider this procedure for early disk degeneration before more invasive surgery is necessary.

Spinal fusion permanently connects two or more vertebrae in the spine, eliminating motion between them.

How it works

The surgeon places bone or a bone-like material within the space between two spinal vertebrae. They may use metal plates, screws, and rods to hold the vertebrae together so that they can heal into one solid unit.

Vertebroplasty and kyphoplasty are minimally invasive procedures to treat painful, compressed vertebrae due to fractures.

How it works

Both procedures are similar but have slight differences, including:

  • Vertebroplasty: Surgeons inject bone cement directly into the fractured vertebra to stabilize and strengthen it.
  • Kyphoplasty: This technique is similar to vertebroplasty but includes the use of a balloon that surgeons inflate inside the fractured vertebra to create space, which they then fill with bone cement.

Here are answers to some common questions about spine surgery.

What is the most common spine surgery?

Due to the prevalence of lower back pain and degenerative spine conditions, lumbar spinal fusion and decompression surgeries, such as laminectomy, are among the most common spine surgeries.

What is the easiest spine surgery?

Surgeons consider minimally invasive diskectomy or a microdiskectomy the easiest spine surgery in terms of recovery and complexity. These procedures treat herniated disks that cause sciatica and other nerve-related symptoms.

They generally involve smaller incisions, less muscle disruption, and a quicker recovery time in comparison with more extensive surgeries such as spinal fusion. However, the term “easy” is relative and varies depending on the person’s specific circumstances, including their overall health, the exact nature of their spinal issue, and the skill and experience of the surgeon.

Each type of spine surgery has specific indications, benefits, and risks. The decision to proceed with a particular surgery depends on a thorough evaluation of a person’s condition, overall health, and lifestyle needs.

Surgeons who specialize in spine surgery can provide detailed information and guidance on the most appropriate treatment options according to individual cases.