Spinal stenosis is a narrowing of the spinal canal. It is generally caused by osteoarthritis, a degenerative condition that can result in bony growths developing along the joints in the spine. When these growths, or osteophytes, fill in the spinal column, it creates pressure of the nerves, and this can lead to severe back pain and leg pain. In most patients, spinal stenosis occurs in a single location in the back, but for truly unlucky people, it can occur in multiple locations. Jim Esposito of Oswego, Illinois is one of the rare cases where spinal stenosis occurred in two areas of his spine. Bone spurs caused him so much pain that conservative treatments including pain medicine, steroids and therapy had proven fruitless, and he spent the majority of his time immobile.
Unwilling to spend the rest of his life sitting in his recliner, Mr. Esposito decided to undergo minimally invasive spinal surgery at a local Chicago hospital – the same type of surgery that our cervical spine practice in New Jersey provides to our patients. The only difference between the procedure that he had and what we provide to our patients is that rather than having a single small incision made in his back, he had to have the same incision and procedure done twice in one operation in order to address both of the areas where his bone spurs were putting pressure on his nerves.
During minimally invasive spinal stenosis surgery, the goal is to remove excess one to provide adequate room for the spinal nerves. This is done by making a 1-inch incision in the back, then using a minimally invasive retractor to push aside the muscles. The ability to move muscles instead of using surgical instruments to cut them, as is done in more invasive surgeries, means that patients have less pain and faster recovery times. After the muscles are moved to allow access to the spine, the bone spurs are shaved away using special tools. Great care is taken to avoid the nerves and minimize damage to any surrounding tissue. This means that patients have less pain, less scarring and risk of scar tissue developing, lower risk of infection and blood loss, and most importantly they are back on their feet much faster. In the case of Mr. Esposito, his recovery put him back on his feet within hours. He stayed overnight for observation and was able to return home the following day with a dramatic improvement of his symptoms.
The symptoms of spinal stenosis can vary based on their cause and the individual’s overall physical condition. If the stenosis is the result of the wear and tear that comes with age, it generally appears after the age of 50 and develops slowly, and is characterized by pain in the back, numbness, tingling or weakness in the legs, burning pain going into the buttocks and beyond, and loss of sensation in the feet. If you have any of these symptoms, contact our office today to make an appointment for a diagnosis of your condition and to discuss your treatment options.