A new spine surgery offers hope for chronic back pain

Back pain is a common complaint of many adults in the United States. Many times, back pain improves with nonsurgical treatments such as medical attention, physical therapy, and medication. Sometimes, however, more severe or long-term symptoms that have not reacted positively to nonsurgical options require surgery.

The spine is made up of more than 30 bones or vertebrae stacked on top of each other, surrounding the spinal cord. Between each vertebra are small disks. The disks are filled with fluid and are spongy and flexible. They act as a shock absorber for the back and allow for flexibility. A “herniated” disk is one that is ruptured or bulging.

One way you can think of the disks in your back is as steel-belted radial tires. When one of your disks herniates or moves out of place, it’s as though a piece of the tire’s tread has separated. The disk or “separated tread” can press on the spinal cord and nerves. This can lead to pain, numbness, or weakness.

Frequently, treatments such as physical therapy, medication, or lifestyle changes can help. But sometimes, symptoms become more serious, such as leg pain or numbness that affects your ability to walk, pain that can not be controlled by pain medication, or problems with controlling your bowel or bladder. Serious symptoms such as these or symptoms that have not responded to other treatments are the types that may need surgery.

Developed in Europe, the TESSYS® surgical technique from Joimax® uses an endoscopic approach to alleviate severe or chronic back pain caused by certain types of herniated disks or tightness around the spinal nerves caused by certain factors. This technique causes less interruption to a patient’s daily lifestyle than traditional back surgery that requires a large incision. The surgery is less invasive, does not require general anesthesia, takes only a short period of time in the operating room, and offers patients the chance to go home the same day. For many, it’s the first time they’ve been pain-free in a long time.

Because this technique can be done under local anesthetic, it’s a safer option for people who have other medical conditions that make surgery with general anesthesia more dangerous. It offers hope for those who otherwise have exhausted their options for relief of their back pain.
The procedure is known as an endoscopic diskectomy. It involves the use of a lighted, hollow tube or endoscope.

The surgeon places the endoscope in the back through a small, keyhole-shaped incision. Surgical tools can then be passed through the tube to reach the herniated disk. Using X-ray technology and a tiny high-definition camera, the surgeon can then locate and remove the protruding disk tissue. There is usually little injury to the surrounding tissue and recovery from surgery is quicker. Most patients return to their daily activities within 10 days.

If a surgeon recommends any type of spine surgery, you should have a full understanding of the potential risks and complications. Patients and family members should ask questions and get the answers they need before making a decision about surgery. You should understand what you need to do before surgery, how the surgery is likely to go, and the expectations for a recovery timeline. If you don’t understand these things, be sure to ask, or get a second opinion.

Visit Southwestern Vermont Medical Center's Facebook page to learn more about the TESSYS® surgical technique from Joimax® and how you can better manage back pain.

Dr. Daniel Robbins, is an orthopaedic surgeon at SVMC Orthopaedics, (802-442-6314). “Health Matters” is a weekly column in the Bennington Banner and Manchester Journal meant to educate readers about their personal health, public health matters, and public policy as it affects health care