Back Surgery: Should You or Shouldn’t you?

Learn when back surgery is a good idea and what your surgical and nonsurgical options might be, from an Emory specialist.If you’re like most Americans, you’re no stranger to back pain. When the pain interferes with your life, it’s time for treatment. But is it time for back surgery?

Today’s surgical techniques are safer and often less invasive than in years past. But any surgery carries some risks, such as infection, bleeding, blood loss or nerve damage. Always get a second opinion from a qualified spine specialist before you have back surgery. And, try other treatments first, such as physical therapy, cortisone shots or medication.

“Even surgeons don’t always agree on whether to operate or what type of surgery to perform. Back and leg pain can be complex,” explained Emory spine specialist Dheera Ananthakrishnan, MD. “At Emory, we take a team approach and we consider your goals and preferences as priority.”

Back surgery options might include:

  • Discectomy: Removal of the herniated portion of a disk to relieve pressure and pain.
  • Laminectomy: Removal of the bone overlying the spinal canal to relieve nerve pressure from spinal stenosis.
  • Fusion: Connection of two or more bones in your spine to make your back more stable and prevent painful motion between the bones.
  • Artificial disk: Removal of a disk and replacement with an artificial one. Artificial disks are fairly new and may not be an option for many people.

Is back or leg pain affecting your life? The Emory Orthopaedics and Spine Center in Atlanta can help. Do you want to learn more now? Yes, I want to learn more now.

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About Dr. Ananthakrishnan

ananthakrishnan-dheeraDr. Ananthakrishnan trained with one of the pioneers of scoliosis surgery, Dr. David Bradford, at the University of California at San Francisco. After completion of her fellowship, she practiced orthopedic and spine surgery for over three years at the University of Washington in Seattle. In 2007, she left Seattle to work with Medecins Sans Frontieres/Doctors without Borders in Port Harcourt, Nigeria. She then worked as a volunteer consultant at the World Health Organization in Geneva, Switzerland, before starting her position at Emory University, where her focus is on adult and adolescent scoliosis.

In 2009, Dr Ananthakrishnan co-founded Orthopaedic Link, a non-profit dedicated to improving orthopaedic care in the developing world by mobilization of unused implants from the United States.   She is also a candidate member of the Scoliosis Research Society.

Although Dr Ananthakrishnan routninely performs complex spinal reconstruction surgery, an injury in 2012 caused her to reevaluate her own approach to musculoskeletal health.  Her practice philosophy now focuses on strengthening, stretching and general conditioning  (“prehab”) as an adjunct to surgical care of her patients.

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