West Orange, NJ (PRWEB) July 31, 2013
For the millions of Americans who suffer from back pain—and the thousands who are considering a surgical solution—the thought of major surgery is often a daunting one. The truth is, a traditional back operation is scary but there is another option; endoscopic spine surgery. With open back surgery the surgeon must make a large incision and displace muscle and other tissue in order to get to the structures of the spine—and the patient must undergo general anesthesia, a hospital stay and a lengthy recovery involving a lot of powerful pain medicine. “It’s hardly a surprise that many patients are leery of open back surgery,” says Kaixuan Liu, MD, PhD, chief surgeon at Atlantic Spine Center. But happily, many patients are candidates for a much less traumatic type of operation called endoscopic spine surgery. Dr. Liu says in these cases surgeons use an advanced, computer-assisted camera system called an endoscope that allows them to operate on the spine in the least invasive way possible.
“With endoscopic spine surgery, we can make a tiny incision—typically less than an inch long—and use a tiny camera and surgical tools to look inside the body and make the necessary repairs without inflicting excessive trauma to the surrounding tissues,” he explains. Research has shown that endoscopic spine surgery offers a long list of advantages over traditional “open” surgery, including less risk (from blood loss or complications from anesthesia), better preservation of spinal mobility and quicker (and less painful) recoveries.
Tips for Understanding Various Types of Endoscopic Spine Surgery
Today, spinal surgeons perform a few different types of less invasive spine surgery. An endoscopic discectomy is used to treat herniated or “bulging” discs, disc tears, and other problems in the discs of the spine (the discs are fluid-filled structures that provide cushioning for the bony vertebrae and join them together). A discectomy can be performed on discs in the lower back (the lumbar spine) or neck (cervical spine). During this procedure, the surgeon removes damaged material and may also use a laser to treat the disc annulus (the tough outer casing of the disc, which holds the gel-like nucleus). The laser vaporizes the damaged disc material, deadens nerves inside, and hardens the disc to prevent future problems.
In an endoscopic foraminotomy, the surgeon addresses problems in the foramen, which are the openings in the spinal column that carry the nerve bundles from the spinal cord to the rest of the body. The operation is used to relieve nerve compression and pain caused by arthritis, bone spurs, disc herniation, sciatica, foraminal stenosis (a narrowing of the foramen) and other conditions. In this type of endoscopic spine surgery, the surgeon might use mechanical tools, a laser or radiofrequency waves to remove the problematic structures and release the compressed nerve (or nerves) and thus relieve the patient’s pain.
Finally, an endoscopic facet rhizotomy is a type of less invasive spine surgery used to treat the pain caused by facet joint injuries or degeneration (the facet joints are the small stabilizing joints located between and behind the vertebrae, which allow the spine to bend and twist). Through this procedure, the surgeon identifies the affected nerve branches, then uses a laser to deaden them (the nerve branches serve as sensors only, so deadening them simply prevents the transmission of pain signals and won’t hinder the patient’s functioning in any way).
Dr. Liu stresses that while endoscopic spine surgery won’t be appropriate for every situation requiring surgery—traditional “open” procedures will still be the best bet for some—the relatively simple operation is a very viable option for many patients.
About Dr. Liu: Kaixuan Liu, M.D., Ph.D., is a renowned endoscopic spine surgeon and founder of Atlantic Spine Center in Edison, New Jersey (http://www.atlanticspinecenter.com). Dr. Liu is certified by The American Board of Pain Medicine and The American Board of Anesthesiology, and is a member of The International Society for Advancement of Spine Surgery, The American Society of Interventional Pain Physicians (ASIPP), The American Academy of Pain Medicine (AAPM), The International Intradiscal Therapy Society (IITS), and The American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA). He also serves as an international surgeon for The Spinal Foundations in England.