Diagnosis of Spinal Abnormalities
Spinal abnormalities mostly involve abnormal interactions between the soft and hard tissue components of the spine. Normally, the spine is structurally balanced for maximum flexibility and support. However, if the spinal curvature is disturbed, it causes spinal pain. This is called sagittal imbalance. The best way to diagnose spinal deformities is via the following imaging techniques:
- X-ray: X-rays can help study the structural anatomy of the hard tissues of the spine to diagnose spine dislocation, kyphosis, scoliosis, bone spurs, disc space narrowing, vertebral body fracture, spinal collapse or erosion.
- Magnetic resonance (MR) imaging: MRIs help diagnose aberrations of the soft tissue components of the spine, such as the spinal cord and nerves.
- Computed tomography (CT) scan: CT scans provide a detailed view of both hard and soft tissues of the spine to diagnose abnormalities of the vertebrae, spinal cord, spinal nerves, and other soft and hard tissues.
Treatment for Spinal Abnormalities
The biggest indicator for spinal deformities is chronic back and neck pain. Therefore, the first course of treatment in the initial stages of the condition is medical management with physiotherapy. The patient can try a variety of anti-inflammatories, corticosteroids and other pain medications to reduce the pain before starting physical therapy for correction of the spinal deformity.
Spine surgery becomes necessary if the above non-surgical management fails to provide pain relief to the patient. The main goal behind the surgery is to stabilize the spine and relieve pressure on the compressed nerves. MISS includes a variety of surgical techniques such as:
- Spinal laminectomy/ spinal decompression: It is generally performed for spinal stenosis patients. The surgeon removes bony spurs or walls compressing the spinal column to relieve the nerve pressure.
- Vertebroplasty/Kyphoplasty: Vertebroplasty and kyphoplasty are performed to fix compression fractures due to osteoporosis. The surgeon injects a glue-like bone cement that hardens and strengthens the vertebrae.
- Discectomy (or Microdiscectomy): It is a slipped disc surgery that is performed to remove a herniated disc compressing the nerve root and spinal cord. It is often performed in conjunction with laminectomy.
- Foraminotomy: This is performed to widen the spinal column where the nerve root exits the spinal canal in case it has narrowed due to aging.
- Nucleoplasty, also called plasma disk decompression: It is a minimally invasive laser surgery in which the surgeon uses a plasma laser device to reduce the disk size and treat mild disk hernia.
- Spinal fusion: The surgeon removes the spinal disc and fuses the adjacent vertebrae together using bone grafts or metal implants to allow the fusion of vertebrae together via the bone grafts, for example, ACDF surgery (Anterior cervical discectomy and fusion), TLIF surgery (Transforaminal Lumbar Interbody Fusion).
- Artificial disk replacement: For people with severely damaged vertebral discs, the surgeon removes the disc and replaces it with a synthetic implant to help restore vertebral height and movement.
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