This blog is part of the series entitled Surgical Successes. This series will highlight various surgical procedures that are currently being performed at Eskenazi Health. Recently, Dr. Camden Burns, an orthopaedic surgeon, sat down to discuss the spinal surgery program  offered at Eskenazi Health.

 The human spine is a nerves highway and a critical component to the overall structure of the human body. So it is very important to seek appropriate care for spinal pain whether it stems from degenerative diseases such as arthritis, spinal deformity or acute traumatic injuries. Dr. Camden Burns, an orthopaedic spine specialist and his team work with patients who suffer from these spinal conditions and perform both elective and emergent spinal surgeries.  

Traumatic spinal injuries may involve the bones, intervertebral discs, spinal cord and spinal nerves. Traumatic spinal injuries are injuries to the spine caused by a sudden traumatic blow to the spinal column. Traumatic spine and spinal cord injuries can involve fractures and dislocations that may crush or compress the bones in the spine. These injuries place the spinal cord and nerves at risk as they are housed within the spinal column. Traumatic spine injuries can manifest themselves in several different forms including: fractures dislocations, crushing or compressing of one or more vertebrae. In severe cases, the spinal column will have multiple types of traumatic spinal injury occur to several different vertebrae within the spinal column. In some circumstances, these injuries require emergent intervention to stabilize the spinal column and decompress the spinal cord and nerves that are at risk.

According to Dr. Burns, elective spinal surgeries are generally not as emergent but may be necessary once conservative treatment such as physical therapy, anti-inflammatory medications and injections fail. These procedures may be performed to improve a patient’s pain, function and quality of life. According to Dr. Burns, elective spinal surgeries aren’t immediately required but can be necessary to improve the patient’s quality of life and to relieve acute spinal pain. Common elective spine procedures may include spinal decompression only but may also include spinal fusion. These procedures may be performed throughout the cervical, thoracic and lumbar spine. A patient’s needs for surgery will be determined after more conservative treatments have been attempted to improve the patient’s condition.

Recovery from spinal surgery, according to Dr. Burns, is often dependent on two independent variables: the health of the patient and the severity of the injury. The healthier the patient is, the more likely the recovery time will be faster compared to a patient who isn’t in good health. Normally, patients may need anywhere from a few weeks to six months to recover from spine surgery depending on the patients’ health, function, severity of condition and type of surgery performed.

Regardless of the health status of the patient before the surgery, and even the severity of the injury itself, there is a graduated recovery process each patient must follow in order to get them back to a healthy lifestyle. For most patients, the recovery process starts immediately as the patients work with nursing staff and physical therapists to get out of bed and walk. Therapy starts with light non-strenuous activity where the patients will limit extremes of bending, lifting and twisting. Patients will be encouraged to walk as much as possible throughout the day and they may perform light household chores and activities of daily living as long as they are not straining to perform those activities. The patient’s participation with therapy is also aimed to improve postoperative stiffness and discomfort, overall leading to an improved result for the patient.

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