A neurosurgeon with decades of experience, Dr. Michael Thomas completed the University of Miami’s Spine Fellowship Program. At his current practice in Florida, Dr. Michael Thomas focuses on minimally invasive procedures to address trauma and other problems of the spine.
When patients challenged by back pain prove unresponsive to conservative options involving medication and physical therapy, they may be candidates for surgical procedures designed to provide relief. Unfortunately, not all patients that undergo such surgeries experience relief, and doctors may have a difficult time discerning which patients will benefit from surgery.
Spinal fusion, a procedure to address lower back pain, involves permanently fusing vertebrae. This fusion prevents the vertebrae from moving. Though spinal fusion may relieve pain, it is unlikely to completely eliminate chronic back pain even in patients that respond well. Spinal fusion compromises range of motion in that it locks vertebrae in place.
Alternative options include disc replacement, during which a neurosurgeon implants an artificial disc in place of a compromised spinal disc. When compared to spinal fusion, disc replacement may reduce recovery time and does not compromise range of motion to the same extent. However, disc replacement is relatively new, meaning there has been less time to conduct long-term studies on the procedure’s outcomes as compared to spinal fusion outcomes.