Frequently Asked Questions About Complex Spine Surgery

In addition to scoliosis, there are a variety of spine conditions and diseases that can cause lower back and leg pain in adults. Here, expert spine surgeons answer some of the most common questions about these conditions and their treatments.

What is Complex Spine Surgery?

Complex spine surgery is a term that covers many different spine problems. Most notable are scoliosis and deformities of the spine. Spinal deformities can be caused by old fractures, failed back surgeries or spinal tumors.

Why Would Someone Need Spinal Revision Surgery?

There are a variety of reasons that someone would need a revision surgery. Common reasons include:

  • Difficulty with spinal fusions healing (acute arthrosis or non-union)
  • Problems above or below sections of a previous spinal surgery
  • Progressive scoliosis
  • Flat back deformity

What are the Benefits of Revision Spine Surgery?

If you’ve been told that you need revision spine surgery and have had trouble finding someone to help you, do not give up hope. Revision spine surgery can help with pain, spinal deformity and to repair broken metal that’s in your back. It can give you a significant improvement in quality of life that can be lasting.

What is a Herniated Disc and How is It Treated?

A herniated disc is sometimes called a slipped disc. Herniation occurs when the inside part of the disc pushes out and presses against nerves in the spine. This can cause back pain as well as leg pain, or sciatica. A herniated disc is treated based on symptoms, with treatments ranging from conservative to more aggressive depending on their success, including:

  • Physical therapy and medications
  • Pain management injections
  • Surgery to remove disc fragment and relieve nerve pinching and leg pain

What is Degenerative Disc Disease and How is It Treated?

Degenerative disc disease is a natural part of aging and occurs over time. It can be accelerated by activities of daily living, sports and other injuries. It happens when the hydraulic fluid within the disc dries up and the disc is no longer able to function as a shock-absorber. Ultimately, disc degeneration can cause bone spurs and instability, which can lead to pinched nerves. Treatments are based on symptoms and can include:

  • Exercise and physical therapy
  • Pain medications
  • Pain management injections
  • Surgery

What is Spinal Stenosis and How is It Treated?

Spinal stenosis means that there has been a narrowing of the space available for the nerves inside the spinal canal. This condition is most often seen in patients over 50 years of age.

Non-surgical treatments include:

  • Exercise and physical therapy
  • Lumbar traction
  • Anti-inflammatory medications
  • Epidural steroid injections

If these treatments don’t provide relief, surgery can be helpful.

What is Kyphosis?

Everyone has a normal thoracic kyphosis, or roundness, through the chest area. In some patients, this curvature can become increased. Two of the most common conditions associated with increased kyphosis are:

  • Idiopathic Scheuermann’s kyphosis in adolescent patients, with unknown origin
  • Degenerative kyphosis, associated with aging in adults

Severe cases of kyphosis can cause pain, significant spinal deformity and even respiratory problems.

How is Kyphosis Treated?

Adolescents with Scheuermann’s kyphosis are often treated with bracing to prevent the kyphosis from worsening. Curvatures that become quite large may require reconstruction with a scoliosis-like surgery to help decrease the kyphosis and allow patients to stand upright.

What is Flat Back Syndrome?

Flat back syndrome refers to losing the sway, or arch, in your lower back. There are a variety of reasons this can occur, including:

  • Degenerative changes from aging
  • Progressive scoliosis
  • Previous scoliosis surgery, such as a Harrington fusion

With the loss of sway in your lower back, people tend to tip forward more and more with age, which causes difficulty with exercise and walking. Treatments, which begin conservatively and progress if symptoms are not alleviated, include:

  • Exercise and physical therapy
  • Pain management/spinal injections
  • Reconstruction surgery

Why Can’t I Stand Up Straight?

Being unable to stand up straight can be caused by many things. If it’s because of a spinal condition, it’s usually one of two things:

  • If you’ve never had surgery before, it could be a pinched nerve
  • If you have had previous spinal surgery, particularly a fusion surgery, your spine could fused in an improper position, preventing you from standing straight