3 percent of individuals with progressive curvature may eventually experience severe problems that can include scoliosis and back pain, spinal problems, and nerve compression causing numbness, weakness, and leg pain.
Thoracic Spine Decompression
Thoracic spine decompression is a method that relieves pressure on the spinal nerves right in the middle part of the back. Spine decompression surgery often helps in treating spinal stenosis. This condition means that the spinal canal narrows due to the deterioration of the facet joints and the thickened ligaments.
When the ligaments get thickened, it narrows the spinal canal compressing the nerves. It causes chronic pain, weakness, numbness, and tingling in your arms or legs. Spine doctors recommend Thoracic decompression surgery when the pain does not go away with traditional treatments such as medications or physical therapy.
The Common Techniques For Thoracic Spine Decompression
Thoracic spine decompression is a generic term that denotes different surgical procedures that help relieve pressure off the spinal cord or spinal nerves. These surgical procedures aim to increase the space within the spinal canal or neural foramen. It is the place where the spinal nerve roots leave the spinal canal.
Laminectomy: In this procedure, doctors remove the entire lamina, a part of the thickened ligaments, and enlarged facet joints to relieve pressure.
Laminotomy: During this method, surgeons only remove a section of the lamina and ligament.
Foraminotomy: A foraminotomy helps increase the space where the spinal nerve roots leave your spinal canal to reduce compression.
Laminoplasty: Laminoplasty is a surgical method that helps improve conditions such as cervical spinal stenosis. This procedure increases the space within the spinal canal and thus; helps relieve the pressure off the spinal canal. In this process, experts create a hinge on one side of the vertebrae and cut a part of the vertebrae on the other side.
It creates swinging vertebrae. And the parts or vertebrae are fixed in place by using small wedges. These spacers are then settled with the help of tiny plates and then set with screws. It expands the space of the spinal canal and relieves the pressure off the spinal cord.
Surgeons perform these surgeries under general anesthesia. They make an incision in the middle of your back to split and move the muscles overlying the vertebrae to the side. It is how they expose the lamina of the vertebra. The lamina is the bone that forms the back of the spinal canal and creates a protective roof on the back of the spinal cord.
Then they remove the entire bony lamina and ligament (laminectomy). In some cases, experts only create a small opening removing the bone of the lamina above and below the spinal nerves. It helps in relieving compression (laminotomy). In the next step, they retract the protective sac of the spinal cord and the nerve root to eliminate the bone spurs and the thickened ligament.
Then surgeons trim the facet joints to create more space for the nerve roots. If the reason for compression is a slipped disc, the surgeon will perform a discectomy. In this process, they will remove a part of a slipped disc.
However, sometimes spinal decompression may require a combination of these surgical procedures. For example, this surgery makes the spine quite unstable. And to deal with this, experts perform another surgery, spinal fusion, to stabilize the spine. Spinal fusion involves rods, bone grafts, plates, or screws to join two separate vertebrae in the spine.
How Long To Stay In The Hospital
Most patients who have undergone any Spinal decompression surgery stay in the hospital for 1-3 days. Before you go home, you need to be able to:
- Control your pain by administering oral pain medications
- Get up and walk around on your own
- Empty your bladder on your own.
If you can not do all these things or have any issues from your surgery, you may have to stay in the hospital for longer.
Depending on the complexity of the surgery and your mobility level before the operation, you will be well enough to leave the hospital within 1 to 4 days after having surgery.
Most people can walk without any help just a day after the operation. However, you should avoid more strenuous activities for about six weeks. You can return to work after 4 to 6 weeks, even though you may have to stay off from your job for a longer time if your job involves lifting heavy objects or driving for long periods.
Activities To Avoid
- Avoid bending or twisting your back in repeated motion.
- Do not lift more than 5-10 pounds.
- If you attempt to pick something up and it causes an ache in the back muscles, you better not lift it.
- Keep things close to your body if you carry or lift anything. Also, if you bend, remember to use your knees instead of your back.
- Because of your recent surgery, avoid driving for at least two weeks. Even after two weeks, do not drive if you are still taking prescription pain medications or muscle relaxers. It is because these medications make you drowsy. And once you feel easy with driving, make sure you can look over your shoulders without experiencing any pain.
- Avoid vacuuming, weight lifting, sweeping/mopping, laundry, running/jogging, wave runner, shoveling/raking, riding a lawn mower, or anything that might irritate your back during the healing period.
Follow these activity restrictions until your follow-up appointment in the fourth-sixth week.
When To Call a Doctor
Contact the doctors if you have any of the following signs and symptoms:
- Numbness or tingling in your feet or legs
- Increasing swelling and redness around the incision with or without any soreness
- The edges of the incision are coming apart.
- Yellow/green and/or bad-smelling drainage from the incision.
- Fever over 101 F.
- Sudden bruising around the incision
- Increasing pain.
- Numbness or tingling in the hands or fingers on any one side.
- Weakness of your arm, hand, or leg
Treating Thoracic Spine Decompression Conditions
Spine doctors only recommend it when non-surgical treatments do not help. This surgery aims to improve symptoms such as numbness and persistent pain in the leg. This pain comes from the pressure on the nerves in the spine.
Surgeons often use lumbar (spine) decompression surgery to treat:
Spinal Stenosis – In this condition, there is a narrowing of a part of the spinal column. And this puts pressure on the nerves inside.
A Slipped Disc And Sciatica – In this case, a damaged spinal disc presses down on an underlying nerve.
Spinal Injuries – Fracture or the swelling of tissue
Metastatic Spinal Cord Compression – In this condition, cancer in one part of the body spreads into the spine and puts pressure on the spinal cord or nerves.
Effectiveness of Thoracic Spine Decompression Surgery
Decompression surgery can be a helpful treatment for people with severe pain from compressed nerves. Up to 3 in every four people who have had the surgery experience a considerable improvement in pain. People who experienced difficulty walking before surgery due to leg pain or weakness can often walk further comfortably after the operation.
Yes. There are risks and complications associated with spinal decompression, such as nerve or tissue damage and allergic reaction to anesthesia, infection, bleeding, and blood clots. However, as long as you have our spine doctors and surgeons to help you out, you can stay completely worry-free. Our team takes complete care of patients throughout the healing procedure.
We’re here to help STOP THE PAIN
If you are an adult living with scoliosis or have a child with this condition and need a doctor who specializes in orthopedic surgery,
call the Southwest Scoliosis and Spine Institute at 214-556-0555 to make an appointment today.