When Tigers Woods snagged his fifth Masters’ win at the Augusta National Golf Club in April, it became one of the greatest sports comebacks in modern day history.
It also served to shed light on minimally invasive spine surgery procedures and how it could not only help a seasoned athlete like woods but help anyone living a life with back pain.
Many fans and medical experts thought Woods would never again attain greatness on the PGA Tour after a string of back injuries led to sputtering starts and finishes. Woods was forced to hang up his hat and sheath his driver as he embarked on a quest to return from devastating lower back pain.
He had undergone three surgeries on his back since 2014; however, they ultimately failed to provide any long term relief that would enable him to play a grueling PGA tour schedule.
It wasn’t until 2017 when orthopedic spine surgeons fused a portion of his lower spine. The procedure performed on Woods is called an anterior lumbar interbody fusion. They fused his L5 to S1 vertebrae.
During a spinal fusion, an orthopedic surgeon removes the disc – a flexible ring of fibers with a jelly donut-like center – between the vertebrae and fuses them together.
Who is a candidate for minimally invasive spinal fusion?
Anyone who is experiencing back pain caused by instability in the spine may be a candidate for a fusion.
Patients with degenerative discs are often spine fusion candidates because the disc between the vertebrae are worn out, dehydrated, stiff, and have started to crumble.
The primary cause of disc degeneration is age.
Because these degenerating discs can no longer deal with the compressive forces exerted on the spine by the body, and they become easy to move. An injury or merely twisting or bending the body is often enough to cause a disc herniation, which can irritate the surrounding spinal nerves and tissue.
A fusion is never the first option. Many people who seek treatment at the BioSpine Institute have often tried a conservative approach, such as physical therapy and pain management, in their quest to find pain relief to regain their lives. Many health insurance companies will not even cover a spine procedure if the patient hasn’t had conservative care. In many cases, physical therapy, exercise, stretching, and yoga can help.
At the BioSpine institute, our surgeons perform a variety of minimally invasive spine procedures, including spinal fusions like Woods had.
Two types of spinal fusions our surgeons perform are an Anterior Cervical Disc Fusion(neck) and Posterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion (lower back).
There are also two different approaches: traditional and minimally invasive. During a spine surgeon’s residency, they are trained to perform spine surgery using the traditional approach. Traditional surgery is performed through 4 to 6-inch incisions, take 2 to 3 hours to complete and staying days recovering in the hospital. Most spine surgeons using the traditional approach never make the transition to the minimally invasive surgical approach. It can take more than 100 hours of rigorous training to learn, and it’s a time commitment many surgeons are unwilling to take.
Our minimally invasive spine surgeons perform all procedures (including spinal fusions) through small 3/4 to 1-inch incisions while gently separating valuable muscle fibers. The minimally invasive approach has numerous benefits such as less pain, less scarring, and faster recovery Procedures take less than 1 hour, and patients can leave on the day of their surgery. Many patients can often return to light activities within 3 days.
If you or a loved one is experiencing back or neck pain, please feel free to contact the BioSpine Institute to schedule a one-on-one consultation with one of our surgeons. Our patient concierge can be reached at 813-443-2108.