Is It Time For Spine Surgery?
If a spinal surgeon raises the possibility of surgery, there’s nothing to fear. Chances are, there is a severe spinal condition affecting the quality of life. Non-surgical treatment has failed, and surgery may be the only option. Over 350,000 spinal surgeries happen yearly. Based on the issue, the surgeon may consider a procedure called direct lumbar interbody fusion or DLIF.
What is DLIF?
Persons who need DLIF may have damaged spinal discs, degenerated discs, or spinal conditions like spondylolisthesis. With the patient positioned on the side, the surgeon removes the damaged disc and bone spurs, if any. The spine surgeon then installs a bone graft or prosthetic device that allows the two affected vertebrae to fuse. A metal plate and screws hold the bones in place to help with healing. The procedure sounds complicated, and patients will have many questions, but DLIF can be a simple, successful procedure. Here are 4 questions to ask to be at ease during the process.
1. Is this a major open surgery?
In the past, surgeons performed DLIF using an open procedure. The surgeon would make an incision several inches long. The surrounding tissue and muscles would then be held open using clamps. Now, doctors can perform DLIF using minimally invasive surgery or MIS. Only a few small incisions are needed to access the area and perform the surgery. Most patients will receive MIS. However, some cases will require a hybrid approach.
2. Will I benefit from DLIF?
Fusion surgery has shown excellent results over the decades. Persons often have reduced pain and a higher quality of life. More than 80% of persons are satisfied with the surgery. Even several years after fusion surgery, patients will feel significantly reduced pain.
3. When can I expect a full recovery?
DLIF recovery starts right out of the operating room. In the first few days, patients go through a combination of physical therapy and pain management. Movement is limited and will gradually improve with rest and physical therapy. By the 8th week, patients should see significant improvement in movement and pain. At this point, some patients can resume desk work or light activities. At the same time, the fusion will be ongoing. The bones will need several months to fuse and heal fully. At the 6-month mark, patients should have a full recovery and feel comfortable enjoying everyday activities.
4. Are there any risks or complications involved?
All surgeries pose risks to the patient, and spinal fusions are no exception. Typical surgical complications include infections or damage to the surgical site area. Specific to fusion surgery, there is a chance of muscle weakness and nerve pain. Although rare, the bones may not fuse, needing additional surgery or treatment. The spine surgeon will address all risks and complications to make DLIF a smooth process.
Make an informed decision on DLIF
Spinal surgery is a serious step in spinal treatment. Both the patient and surgeon must agree that this is the right step. Asking these key questions, along with others, can clear up any fears or misconceptions about the surgery. In the end, fusion may improve the quality of life of those with chronic spinal issues. For more information, speak with a spine surgeon.
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