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The Ultimate Guide to Spinal Decompression Surgery

By July 14, 2022No Comments

Ultimate Guide to Spinal Decompression Surgery

If you have back or neck pain that won’t let up, even after trying non-invasive pain relief methods, you might be suffering from spinal cord compression. This refers to any spinal condition that puts pressure on, or compresses, the spinal cord. At Spine Medicine & Surgery of Long Island, we have decades of experience in treating these types of conditions, with and without surgery. But if you’ve exhausted your conservative treatment options, Dr. Daniel Choi has many minimally invasive spinal decompression surgery options to help relieve your pain and regain control of your life.


In this post, we’ll tell you:


  • What spinal decompression surgery is
  • The benefits of spinal decompression surgery
  • Conditions that spinal decompression surgery can treat
  • Types of spinal decompression surgery
  • Recovery outcomes for spinal decompression surgery



What is Spinal Decompression Surgery?


Spinal decompression surgery is a general term that refers to a group of procedures that help alleviate chronic symptoms caused by pressure on or compression of the spinal cord. When herniated discs, fractures, bone spurs, arthritis or other conditions cause pressure on the spinal cord and/or nerve roots, it can lead to symptoms like pain, tingling, numbness and weakness. For certain patients who haven’t experienced relief with more conservative measures, decompressive surgery may be the best course of action.


There are many different types of spinal decompression surgery. The type of surgery you choose to get will depend on the underlying cause of your condition and your spinal surgeon’s recommendation. As an expert minimally invasive spine surgeon in Long Island, Dr. Choi offers several revolutionary approaches to decompressive spinal surgery that we’ll tell you all about below.



Benefits of Spinal Decompression Surgery


The decision to get spinal surgery is a big one. Dr. Choi will only recommend surgery as a last line of defense after non-invasive spinal treatment options have proven ineffective for your condition. If you do decide to undergo spinal decompression surgery, here are some of the benefits you can expect:


  • Provides effective pain relief: Decompressive surgery relieves the pressure on the spinal cord and/or nerve roots, and is extremely effective at eliminating associated back pain or neck pain.
  • Restores mobility: For patients who experience unsteadiness or weakness that causes difficulty standing and walking, surgery can combat these symptoms and improve mobility.
  • Treats a range of conditions: Spinal decompression procedures aim to eliminate the pressure caused by a variety of conditions, including spinal tumors, injuries, arthritis, degenerative changes, bone spurs, spinal stenosis, herniated discs and more.



What Does Spinal Decompression Surgery Treat?


In order to determine whether you’re a candidate for decompressive spinal surgery, let’s have you answer the following questions:


  • Do you suffer from a herniated disc, sciatica, spinal stenosis or other spinal conditions?


  • Are you unable to work, engage in daily activities or exercise because of your condition?


  • Have you exhausted your conservative treatment options — including treatments like physical therapy, acupuncture, chiropractic care and injections — and still not experienced any improvement of your symptoms?


If you answer yes to all of the above questions, decompression surgery may be a good next step. Through his minimally invasive decompressive spine surgery methods, Dr. Choi can successfully treat conditions of all kinds. This includes spinal tumors, injuries, arthritis, degenerative changes, bone spurs, spinal stenosis, herniated discs and more. Read on to learn more about the different types of spinal decompression surgery and how Dr. Choi can help.



Types of Spinal Decompression Surgery


The type of spinal decompression surgery you have will, of course, depend on your symptoms and condition. As a Harvard-trained spinal surgeon in Long Island, Dr. Choi uses the latest technology and cutting-edge methods to achieve the highest standard of results for his patients. Here are some of the surgeries we offer at Spine Medicine & Surgery of Long Island.




The laminectomy procedure is one of the most common types of back surgery. It’s highly effective for treating pain when conservative treatments have failed. When performing a laminectomy, our Long Island orthopaedic spine surgeon makes an incision in the treatment area. He then gently moves the muscle and soft tissue aside so he can access the spine. Finally, Dr. Choi removes any structures that are compressing the nerves, such as bone, bone spurs and ligaments.


Cervical laminectomy & fusion:


This type of laminectomy procedure is performed to widen the spinal canal. By creating more room, Dr. Choi can relieve the pressure on the spinal nerve or spinal cord. A cervical laminectomy and fusion is a common treatment option for cervical spinal stenosis.


During the procedure, which is performed under general anesthesia, Dr. Choi makes an incision at the center of the back of the neck in order to reach the cervical spine. He then removes a small portion of the lamina (the bony area that forms the roof of the spine).


In addition to the laminectomy, Dr. Choi may also do a fusion. This stabilizes the spine, reduces the chance of the symptoms recurring and wards off further compression. With a fusion, Dr. Choi places bone graft to fuse together two or more vertebrae. If necessary, he also inserts metal plates and screws to keep the bones secure until you have healed.


Coflex® Interspinous Device


Since decompressive surgery can make the spine unstable, spinal fusion is commonly performed at the same time. While spinal fusion provides stability, it also prevents your spine from moving freely. As part of his commitment to offering cutting-edge, minimally invasive care, Dr. Choi offers a revolutionary alternative to spinal fusion following decompressive surgery: the Coflex® device.

The FDA-approved coflex device is a titanium implant that gives you the stability you’d get with spinal fusion. However, it preserves your spinal flexibility and range of motion. Dr. Choi can use the same incision he made for your decompressive surgery in order to insert the implant. With the implant in place, you’ll be able to move naturally and continue to do your favorite activities.


Cervical laminoplasty:


Another procedure that can be done to relieve the compression of the spinal cord in the neck is a cervical laminoplasty. First, Dr. Choi will access the spinal column by making an incision in the back of the neck. He will then open the spinal canal to relieve the pressure by making two incisions in the affected bone. Finally, he’ll place a bone graft or a small titanium plate in order to keep the area open. 


Endoscopic laser disc decompression:


Endoscopic laser disc decompression is a minimally invasive procedure performed to treat a ruptured or injured disc. The surgery can be performed under just local anesthesia, helping you bypass the risks associated with general anesthesia.


During endoscopic laser disc decompression, Dr. Choi makes a small incision above the damaged disc. He inserts an endoscope into the disc with the help of fluoroscopic guidance. Laser energy is then used to ablate, or remove, the damaged disc tissue and decompress the nerve, which is the source of pain caused by a ruptured or injured disc.


Endoscopic spine surgery:


With traditional spine surgery, a surgeon has to make a lengthy incision, then cut and move the back muscles aside. This can cause injury to the muscles and soft tissues that surround the spine. Endoscopic spine surgery, on the other hand, involves one small incision in the skin through which Dr. Choi can insert an endoscope. This tool is attached to a camera that lets him view the surgical site without having to open up the back completely. The entire procedure is completed inside a tube with tiny surgical instruments.


Because you won’t have a large incision and won’t experience trauma to the muscles and tissue, your recovery will be much easier and faster. You will be back doing your normal daily activities without pain more quickly.


Ultrasonic spinal surgery:


When performing surgeries — including laminectomy procedures, scoliosis surgery, osteotomies and transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion procedures — Dr. Choi has to cut through bone. With ultrasonic spinal surgery, instead of using conventional tools like a pneumatic drill or an osteotome, he uses the BoneScalpel to make exceptionally precise surgical cuts.


This ultrasonic tool is matched to ultrasound waves at the correct frequency to cut into dense tissue, such as bone. Since soft tissue structures have a different density and don’t absorb the energy from the instrument, they move away from the blade and are not damaged. Thanks to these tissue sparing effects, Dr. Choi is even able to safely make cuts in areas where he never could before with traditional tools.


Recovery Outcomes of Spinal Decompression Surgery


Recovery Outcomes of Spinal Decompression Surgery


It goes without saying that your mobility will be impacted after having any type of spine surgery and you will have to limit your activity for several weeks. The duration of your recovery will depend on the type of decompressive surgery you have, but you can expect to stay in hospital for one to five days following most decompressive procedures. Post-surgical back or neck pain is to be expected but medication can help manage it. Physical therapy will likely be necessary following surgery. After a cervical laminectomy and fusion, you’ll also be given a cervical collar to wear for up to six weeks.

You don’t need to suffer from neck and back pain any longer. Find out if you’re a candidate for spinal decompression surgery. Contact Spine Medicine & Surgery of Long Island today.

Dr. Daniel Choi

Author Dr. Daniel Choi

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