Posts Tagged ‘spinal surgery’

How Aging Affects Your Cervical Spine – Part I: Pinched Nerve

Pinched NerveThe cervical spine refers to that portion of the spinal column that is within our neck. This section of the spine has two essential roles: providing flexibility so that we can move our head up and down and side to side, and protecting the spinal cord nerves that pass through it. Cervical radiculopathy, or pinched nerve, tends to occur when the nerve roots are irritated or compressed by one of many conditions.

Cause

Cervical radiculopathy can occur in a wide variety of patients, with those younger than 50 tending to suffer as a result of disc herniations. Other than trauma or injury, degenerative conditions as a result of aging are the main cause of neck pain. As disks age, they lose height and the vertebrae move closer together, causing the body to respond by forming more bone—called spurs—around the disk to strengthen it. However, the spurs can also contribute to stiffening of the spine. Bone spurs may also narrow the area of the foramen and pinch the nerve root.

Symptoms

The primary symptoms of cervical radiculopathy include pain radiating from the neck into the shoulder, upper arm, forearm, or hand.  Sometimes the symptoms radiate into all of these areas, whereas in other cases, the symptoms may radiate to only some of these areas.  Other associated symptoms can include tingling and numbness.  In some cases, weakness of various muscle groups in the shoulder, arm, and hand may occur.

Treatments

Non-surgical:

Interventional treatments for cervical radiculopathy are generally attempted first and may include:

  • Physical therapy and/or exercise to help relieve the pressure on the nerve root. Stretching as many dimensions of the neck as possible is essential to maintain flexibility and relieve chronic stiffness.
  • Medications, such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to reduce swelling and pain and analgesics to relieve pain.
  • Use of a cervical collar, cervical pillows, or neck traction may also be recommended to stabilize the neck and improve alignment.
  • Injections of steroid medications around the affected nerve root, commonly known as nerve root or epidural injections, can be considered for pain relief as well.

Surgical Treatment:

If symptoms persist despite nonoperative care, or if there is substantial motor weakness, surgical treatment is recommended and generally has excellent outcomes.  In fact, cervical spine surgery generally has the best outcomes of any spinal operation.  Surgical treatment generally involves relieving the pressure off of the affected nerve root.  Depending on the circumstances, it may be performed either from the front (anterior) or back (posterior) of the neck, although the anterior approach is more common.

Some of the surgical spine procedures used to treat cervical radiculopathy at the Emory Orthopaedics and Spine Center are:

At the Emory Orthopaedic & Spine Center, our internationally-recognized spine surgeons research, pioneer and refine the most effective approaches to treating a variety of spine conditions.

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About Dr. Rhee

John Rhee, MDJohn M. Rhee, MD, is a Spinal Surgeon and Associate Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery specializing in cervical spine surgery, lumbar spine surgery, complex spinal deformity surgery (scoliosis and kyphosis) and surgery for spinal tumors. Dr. Rhee is an active researcher and sought-after teacher/lecturer at the national and international level in multiple medical societies. He has served as faculty and been an invited lecturer at numerous meetings and courses on spine surgery. In addition, he has served as Program Chairman at numerous national and international spine surgery meetings. Dr. Rhee has also published extensively in a number of peer reviewed journals and books, and he has received numerous awards and honors. He is actively involved the training of international research scholars and other spinal surgeons and has been the author and editor of major textbooks on spine surgery techniques.

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Spinal Tumor Symptoms & Treatment

Spinal TumorsTumors, whether cancerous (malignant tumors) or noncancerous (benign tumors), can develop and affect bones anywhere in the body, but when a tumor develops in or near your spinal cord or within the bones of your spine, it can be an especially serious condition.

Your spine is an extremely important part of your body as it holds up your head, shoulders and upper body. It also houses and protects your spinal cord and the nerve roots that control your arms, legs, and torso. The spine is made up of 31 small bones, called vertebrae, which are stacked on top of one another and make up the three sections of your spine (cervical spine, thoracic spine, lumbar spine) forming the natural curves of your back.

Your spinal cord runs through the middle part of the vertebra, which is called the spinal canal, and extends from the skull to the lower back. Spinal nerves branch out from the spinal cord through openings in the vertebrae, carrying signals between the brain and muscles.

The most common type of spinal tumor is one that spreads (a metastasis) from cancer arising in another part of the body, such as the breast, lung, kidney, prostate, thyroid, blood cells, or other tissues. Rarely, spinal tumors arise from the nerves of the spinal cord itself. Primary spinal tumors are those that arise from the bones in the spine – these are also relatively rare.

The closeness of a tumor to the spine and nerves that run through and between your vertebrae determines the severity of the condition. Tumors can compress and interfere with nerve function, affecting the messages being sent to and from your brain to the rest of your body. Since the spinal cord is relatively narrow, tumors within it may cause symptoms on both sides of the body. Tumors can also weaken the vertebrae, causing the spine to collapse and potentially cause pain or injure the nerves housed within.

Spinal tumors are different for each unique patient since they originate from different areas or develop from different cell types. Depending on where the tumor is, how advanced it is, how quickly it is growing and whether it is malignant or benign, symptoms and treatment options vary.

Common symptoms of spinal tumors include:

  • Pain
  • Muscle weakness
  • Loss of sensation or numbness (in the legs, arms or trunk)
  • Loss of bladder/ bowel control
  • Difficulty using arms or legs, inability to walk

Treatment for spinal tumors is determined on a case by case basis and may include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy or other medications. If surgery is necessary, the goals are to stabilize the spinal column, relieve nerve pressure caused by the tumor, protect the nerves and spinal cord and remove as much of the tumor as safely possible.

For more information about spinal tumors and spine tumor treatment, visit Emory Orthopaedics & Spine Center. Our world renowned, highly skilled, specialized and experienced team includes orthopedic spine surgeons, neurosurgeons, orthopedic oncologists and radiologists, all working together to diagnose and treat a wide range of spinal tumors.

About Dr. Rhee

John Rhee, MDJohn M. Rhee, MD, is a Spinal Surgeon and Associate Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery specializing in cervical spine surgery, lumbar spine surgery, complex spinal deformity surgery (scoliosis and kyphosis) and surgery for spinal tumors. Dr. Rhee is an active researcher and sought-after teacher/lecturer at the national and international level in multiple medical societies. He has served as faculty and been an invited lecturer at numerous meetings and courses on spine surgery. In addition, he has served as Program Chairman at numerous national and international spine surgery meetings. Dr. Rhee has also published extensively in a number of peer reviewed journals and books, and he has received numerous awards and honors. He is actively involved the training of international research scholars and other spinal surgeons and has been the author and editor of major textbooks on spine surgery techniques.

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Patient Video Story: Back to Life after Spinal Tumor Surgery

Collapsed Disc Spine Patient Races to Recovery

For years, triathlete Denise Novicki suffered from excruciating spinal pain in her lower back. Founder of Tri2Remember, a triathlon club that raises money to fight Alzheimer’s disease, Denise had always led an active lifestyle, but her back pain made it difficult, if not impossible, to enjoy her favorite pastime.

“I was in such immense pain that I was looking for some very trusted resources to manage my pain,” Denise says. She chose the Emory Spine Center at the Emory University Orthopaedics & Spine Hospital for assessment and a solution.

“What we’ve tried to do here at the Emory Spine Center is take the worry and the guessing out of a spine or back problem,” says Dr. Scott Boden (pictured left), director of the Center. “When people come here, we help them figure out what’s wrong and give them lots of different options.”

Before the spine doctors at the Emory Spine Center suggest surgery, they investigate all possible nonsurgical interventions, but they also know that, in some cases, a simple surgery may make the difference between experiencing debilitating pain and living pain free.

To find out the cause of her back pain, Denise met with spine surgeon Dr. John Heller, who discovered that she had a collapsed disc. It was clear to Dr. Heller that surgery would bring Denise relief and allow her to get her life back. “Denise came to us seeking advice on how to improve back pain that had really gotten in the way of her normal lifestyle,” says Dr. Heller. “She was an avid athlete and was having tremendous difficulty maintaining a training regiment, let alone a normal, everyday life.”

Before her spine surgery, Denise signed up for an upcoming Ironman distance race. She wanted to be sure she had a goal in place that would help her stay focused on recovery. She achieved her goal. “Coming into doing the Ironman, I had a different perspective than probably most athletes do, because I came to the table with thankfulness that I am actually able to compete. I did what I set out to do, and I couldn’t have done it without the team at Emory.” To learn more about Denise’s experience with spine surgery at Emory, check out the short video below:

Dr. Boden says, “The thing I love about taking care of patients with spine problems is that we have a real opportunity to help patients get their lives back, and that’s a very special thing.”

Dr. Scott BodenThe spine doctors at the Emory Spine Center are dedicated to excellent spine care. “Some places, people are part-time spine and part-time hips and knees, but what’s unique about our group is that everybody primarily focuses on taking care of patients with spine problems, teaching trainees who are learning about the spine, and doing research to try and explore new and better ways to treat spinal problems,” says Dr. Boden (pictured left). “If you end up coming to Emory University Orthopaedics & Spine Hospital, you’ll leave saying that you’ve never been in a hospital that’s anything like it.”

Have you had spinal surgery at the Emory Spine Center? We’d like to hear about your experience. Please take a moment to give us feedback in the comments section below.

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