What is Spinal Cord Compression?
Spinal cord compression (SCC) occurs when pressure is applied to the spinal cord. This can result from conditions such as a herniated disc, tumors, bone fractures, or spinal stenosis. If untreated, SCC can cause significant neurological deficits, including pain, weakness, numbness, and, in severe cases, paralysis. Board Certified Neurosurgeon, Scott Raffa, MD at Cantor Spine Center at the Paley Orthopedic & Spine Institute, specializes in treating SCC. Timely intervention is crucial, with surgery being one of the main treatment modalities. Spinal cord compression has a wide variety of causes, such as:
- Degenerative disc disease: As we age, the discs between the vertebrae can wear out, leading to herniation, where the disc material protrudes and puts pressure on the spinal cord.
- Tumors: Both benign and malignant growths can press against the spinal cord.
- Spinal stenosis: This is a narrowing of the spinal canal, often due to arthritis or other degenerative processes.
- Infections: Certain infections can cause abscesses that compress the spinal cord.
- Trauma: Accidents or injuries can lead to bone fragments or disc material pressing on the spinal cord.
- Osteoporosis: Weak and brittle bones can lead to fractures, which may compress the spinal cord.
Symptoms of Spinal Cord Compression
Symptoms vary depending on the location and severity of the compression. Common symptoms include:
- Pain at the site of compression
- Radiating pain
- Numbness or tingling in the extremities
- Muscle weakness or paralysis
- Difficulty walking or loss of balance
- Loss of bladder or bowel control
Treatment Options for Spinal Cord Compressions?
When conservative treatments such as medications, physical therapy, or braces fail to alleviate symptoms or when the compression is severe, surgery might be recommended. Surgical treatments include:
- Laminectomy: This procedure involves the removal of the back part of the vertebra, called the lamina, to create more space for the spinal cord. It is commonly performed for spinal stenosis.
- Discectomy: This is the removal of the herniated portion of a disc to relieve pressure on the spinal cord or nerve roots.
- Foraminotomy: This procedure enlarges the opening where the nerve roots exit the spinal cord to alleviate nerve compression.
- Spinal fusion: Vertebrae are joined together using bone grafts, screws, or rods to stabilize the spine after other decompression surgeries.
- Vertebroplasty and Kyphoplasty: These procedures are used to treat compression fractures caused by osteoporosis. Bone cement is injected into the fractured vertebra to stabilize it.
- Tumor removal: If a tumor is the cause of the compression, surgery might be performed to remove it or to reduce its size.
Postoperative Care & Recovery
After undergoing surgery to address spinal cord compression, the post-operative period is vital for recovery, rehabilitation, and achieving optimal outcomes. This includes:
- Observation: Patients are closely monitored for vital signs, neurological responses, and any potential complications.
- Pain Management: Pain is a common post-operative symptom. Patients are provided with analgesics, either orally or through intravenous means, to manage pain and ensure comfort. To learn about Pain Management treatment options at Cantor Spine Center, click here.
- Wound Care: The surgical site is kept clean and regularly inspected for signs of infection, bleeding, or cerebrospinal fluid leakage.
Rehabilitation starts soon after surgery, sometimes as early as the next day. The primary goals are:
- Strengthening the muscles surrounding the spine.
- Improving flexibility and range of motion.
- Teaching proper body mechanics to protect the spine.
- Enhancing functional mobility and overall independence.
At Cantor Spine Center, our team of physical therapists and occupational therapists will guide you during this phase. They may offer exercises tailored to individual needs, ensuring our patients regain strength and function without compromising the surgical site.
While many patients experience significant relief and improved quality of life after surgical intervention, complications can arise. These could include:
- Infection at the surgical site.
- Bleeding or hematoma formation.
- Nerve injury leading to numbness, tingling, or weakness.
- Dural tear or cerebrospinal fluid leakage.
- Non-union in cases of spinal fusion, where the bones don’t fuse together as intended.
- Implant malfunction or migration, especially in procedures using screws, rods, or cages.
If your procedure was performed by Dr. Scott Raffa, regular follow-up visits will be scheduled to monitor healing, address any complications, and ensure the best possible outcome.
Post-surgery, our patients are advised to make certain lifestyle changes to prevent further spinal problems:
- Maintain a healthy weight to reduce strain on the spine.
- Adopt an ergonomic workstation if working long hours at a desk.
- Engage in regular low-impact exercises, like walking, swimming, or cycling.
- Avoid smoking as it impedes bone healing and increases the risk of osteoporosis.
- Practice proper posture and lifting techniques.
Choosing Dr. Scott Raffa & Cantor Spine Center for Spinal Cord Compression Treatment
Spinal cord compression is a serious condition that can have devastating consequences if left untreated. Early detection and prompt treatment are crucial in preventing long-term neurological deficits. Surgery often proves highly effective in managing spinal cord compression (SCC), but the optimal approach depends on factors such as the cause, location, and severity of compression, as well as the patient’s overall health. For the best guidance, individuals should seek medical advice and consultations with a board-certified spine specialist like neurosurgeon, Dr. Scott Raffa. Our team is here to help you determine the most suitable treatment plan for your specific needs.
For a comprehensive evaluation and to explore your treatment options, don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment or seek a second opinion consultation with Dr. Scott Raffa at Cantor Spine Center by calling 561-935-1188. Take the first step towards a pain-free life by calling us today.