Thanks to everyone who joined us Tuesday, August 25, for our live online chat on “When Should You Consider Spine Surgery?” hosted by Scott Boden, MD, director of the Emory Orthopaedics & Spine Center.
If you have been told you need spine surgery, it is important to make sure you have the proper information before electing to have spine surgery. The good news is that less than 10% of patients who experience back or neck problems are actually candidates for surgery.
See all of Dr. Boden’s answers by checking out the chat transcript! Below are a few highlights from the chat:
Question: I have disc degeneration at all lumbar levels, can surgery be performed, if not, what else can be done to relieve pain?
Dr. Boden: When there is disc degeneration at all levels and the primary symptom is back pain (and not radiating leg pain), we would typically not suggest surgery. You would have to come in to see a spine specialist to fully address your pain and specific situation, though.
Question: If less than 10% of patients who experience back or neck problems are candidates for surgery, why is that?
Dr. Boden: The majority of back or neck problems will resolve with time or non-operative treatments such as physical therapy or medications. Only a very small percentage will require or benefit from surgery.
Question: Could you walk us through a general sequence of determining whether or not a patient should consider surgery following a disc herniation, PT and epidural steroid injections? Having a hard time sorting out the difference between patience to allow healing and delaying and inevitable surgery now 2 years post injury.
Dr. Boden: In general, a disc herniation might need surgery if the primary symptom is radiating leg pain rather than just low back pain.
The majority of disc herniations – over 90% – resolve on their own within three months. During that time steroid injections, physical therapy and medications can be tried to help relieve pain while the body heals the disc.
If the leg pain persists longer than 3 months than the ideal surgical window is between 3 and 6 months after the leg pain started. You can still get acceptable results after 2 years, but the likelihood of success is slightly smaller.
Watch as Dr. Boden shares more insight into when it’s time to consider back surgery in this Fox5 Atlanta news feature. (Note: this news segment contains advertisements and external links which are not endorsed, administered or controlled by Emory Healthcare.)
At the Emory Orthopaedics & Spine Center, our team of highly-trained spine specialists work together to diagnose and treat cervical spine and lumbar spine conditions ranging from herniated discs to more complex problems such as spinal tumors and scoliosis.
To make an appointment with an Emory spine specialist, call 404-778-3350 or complete our online appointment request form >>