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Back and neck pain are a common problem that people face throughout their lives, particularly as they age. Oftentimes, a minor to moderate pain can be managed with over-the-counter pain medication, physical therapy, and rest, but sometimes more complex issues manifest, causing the need for surgical intervention.

Complex spinal neck and back disorders may include any of the following:

  • Degenerative conditions like lumbar and disc diseases or arthritis
  • Compression syndromes like cervical stenosis and lumbar stenosis
  • Spinal tumors
  • Spinal injuries or infections

Symptoms that indicate you may have a complex spinal problem include:

  • Neck and back pain, stiffness, weakness or numbness
  • Arm and leg pain, stiffness, weakness or numbness
  • Inability to control body functions of the bowel and bladder
  • Loss of motor function in your limbs
  • Balance issues, like tripping when walking

How can complex spinal disorders be treated?

With these more complex disorders of the neck and back, patients often require a spinal fusion to help stabilize their spines. A spinal fusion is an operation that corrects problems within the vertebrae (small bones) that make up your spine. It’s kind of like a welding process. It is used to join two or more vertebrae to help stabilize your spine, which helps alleviate neck and back pain.

Most surgical options for spinal fusion involve placing a spacer or cage between the vertebrae. These spacers are often supplemented with bone that is grafted from another area on the same patient, like the hip bone. In cases where that is not possible, a bone bank may be used to find a donor bone. Sometimes bone graft extenders or bone morphogenetic proteins (hormones to help bones grow) may be used to reduce the need for bone grafts.

Fusion can also involve the use of supplemental hardware like screws, plates, or cages to help the bones fuse together. Once the fusion is complete, the hardware can be removed, but it is often kept in place to avoid the need for another surgery to remove it.

Through minimally invasive surgical techniques, Dr. Dickinson can perform spinal fusions as necessary for a patient’s condition. CT-guided navigation, advanced fluoroscopy (continuous x-ray during the procedure), and endoscopy have improved the accuracy of fusion procedures. Dr. Dickinson specializes in each of these minimally invasive techniques.

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