Sitting inside the spinal column, the spinal cord is a bundle of nerves extending from the base of the brain to the lower back. It is responsible for passing messages between the brain and the rest of the body. It is an extremely sensitive part of the human nervous system and even a minor spinal cord injury can lead to serious medical conditions like paralysis.
In what follows, we will be explaining some of the methods used by doctors for diagnosing spinal cord injury. The article will also educate you on different treatment options available to fix spinal cord injury.
Feeling pain in the back can be an indicator of several medical conditions. It could be a minor issue like a strain in the muscle or it could be as serious as getting Spinal Stenosis which refers to the narrowing of spaces within your spine that leads to extreme pain.
You might also want to read: What are the Most Common Causes of Back Pain at a Young age?
Diagnosis often starts with physical examination like muscle movement and reflex. However, the only way to ensure if the pain in your back is due to an injury to the spinal cord is to run diagnostic tests. Following are some of the diagnostic tests your doctor is likely to recommend;
X-ray tests can reveal if there are any fractures, tumors, degenerative changes, or other similar problems in the bones of the spine. However, an X-ray cannot give a detailed picture of the scanned area. For that purpose, doctors use a more sophisticated test i.e., CT Scan.
A Computed Tomography scan sends radiation through a patient's body and returns a computerized 360-degree view of the spine structure. Scans obtained by CT tests provide a detailed view, unlike X-ray scans, subtle fractures and blood clots are also visible.
MRI uses strong magnetic and radio waves to take the picture of the spine and reveal abnormalities. It is a more advanced test as compared to CT scan as it can also differentiate between types of tissues and abnormalities in them. Both CT scans and MRI scans are used to diagnose spinal injuries, however, since MRI uses magnetic fields, patients with metal implants are recommended CT scans to avoid any potential implications.
After diagnosis, the doctor will share reports with you. Spinal injuries are classified based on the ASIA (American Spinal Injury Association) spine impairment scale. This scale has five categories each representing a different level of injury and thus required treatment.
Based on the diagnosis, the doctor will assess the severity of your medical condition and recommend different surgical procedures. In the following section, we will be discussing some of the most common spinal cord surgical treatments.
Spinal fusion is also carried out to cure degenerative disc disease. Both artificial disc replacement and spinal fusion achieve the same treatment goals and it is the doctor who decides what’s good for you.
As the name suggests, in Spinal Fusion neurosurgeons fuse a patient’s spine bones with the aid of a bone graft. Once the spine is healed, two or more vertebral bones fuse into a single bone.
Our spinal discs deteriorate over time due to wear and tear. Due to some reasons, some people might get a degenerated disc earlier in their lives. Artificial disc replacement is carried out to replace such discs.
The neurosurgeon will get access to your spine by making an incision in your abdomen. The degenerate disc is then replaced with an artificial disc. An artificial disc is carefully designed to support all kinds of motions a normal spine would do.
Laminectomy surgery is usually performed to treat spinal stenosis in which the spinal canal gets narrow putting pressure on the neighboring nerves. It results in extreme pain in the back going all the way down to the legs. The patient also feels numbness and tingling in other parts of the body like the feet.
The neurosurgeon removes a small section of the bone (known as lamina) from your back to create space. It creates room for the spinal nerves that relieve the pressure that was previously put on due to the lack of space.
It is not a type of spine surgery, it is rather a technique that can be used to perform any spine surgery mentioned above with minimal invasion. It requires sophisticated endoscopic tools and advanced skills of a doctor to perform minimally invasive surgery.
During MIIS, the surgeon inserts a device (tubular retractor) into the patient's body by making a small incision. This device helps the doctor to reach the affected part by gently pushing the muscle and tissues aside. The device carries a camera with it to view the inside of the body on a monitor. The surgery can be performed once the device reaches the area to be treated.
There are several benefits of MIIS over open surgery;
Here at Southern California Brain & Spine Surgery, Dr. Moksha Ranasinghe provides healthcare services to patients suffering from spine injuries. She has successfully operated on several patients over the years who now enjoy good health. You can read her patient’s feedback on Healthgrades and Yelp.