Car Accidents and Back Surgeries

The most common injuries after an accident involve the neck and back. Every year we handle numerous cases for our clients who had to have surgery after an accident. These are serious cases that require an experienced attorney. Settlements should include money for past and future medical treatment, pain and suffering, and in some cases, future lost wages if the surgery will limit your ability to work in your physically demanding job. The goal of all spinal surgeries is to protect the spinal column from damage. The spinal column is the bundle of nerves that acts as the information superhighway of the nervous system. As with other ailments, surgery to fix back pain is a last resort. Many conditions can be treated with, or have their symptoms lessened by, physical therapy and other non-invasive techniques. People usually decide to undergo surgery when their symptoms are severe enough to impede everyday function or their mobility is seriously impaired.

The most common types of back surgery fall under two categories: lumbar decompression and lumbar fusion. Lumbar decompression encompasses a number of surgeries that all attempt to ease pressure on the spinal column. Laminectomy and laminoplasty are procedures that remove or alter the laminae, the bony ridges on the back of the spine that protect the spinal column. The other common type of decompression surgery is a microdiscectomy. During this procedure, the surgeon accesses a damaged or herniated disc through a small incision and then removes all or part of it to relieve pressure on the spinal nerve. Lumbar fusion surgery attempts to treat pain and nerve damage by stopping the movement of a damaged joint. Each vertebra meets the following vertebra in a small articular joint separated by a fibro-cartilaginous disc. These joints form the spinal column and give the spine its range of movement, allowing it to bend, flex and handle weight. A spinal fusion is accomplished by adding a bone graft to the damaged segment of the spine. The doctors then encourage bone growth until the two vertebrae are effectively joined and all motion is stopped. Surgeons will usually use hardware to keep the joint from moving while the bone grows.

When Should I Undergo Surgery? What are the Risks?

If you are experiencing back pain and limitation of movement, then surgery may sound like the magic bullet to cure your condition. But is back surgery worth it? Decompression and Fusion surgeries are both elective procedures unless the injury or condition is causing loss of bladder/bowel control and/or progressive neurological deterioration. These surgeries, particularly fusions, come with loss of mobility and/or articulation, and your condition may be better treated by non-invasive therapy. It is essential that you speak with your physician about all the alternatives to surgery – the answer may be as easy as regular visits to the chiropractor, physical therapy and small lifestyle changes. Only you and your doctor can decide if surgery is right for you. Generally patients decide to undergo spinal surgery when their condition isn’t responding to therapy or if the conditions are debilitating enough to make physical therapy unfeasible. The risk of complications due to spinal surgery is low, but they include: nerve damage, recurrent disc herniation, blood clots, stroke, and heart attack. People who undergo spinal surgery are most often satisfied with their results because it relieves pain caused by an underlying condition that is worse than the loss of mobility that comes with spinal surgery.

Conditions Which May Benefit From Surgery

Damage, or the potential for damage, can be caused by injuries and congenital or acquired conditions.

  • Scoliosis and spinal deformities are often treatable through surgery.
  • Arthritis can lead to severe pain, and inflammation that puts pressure on the spinal column. Surgery may be effective in reducing this swelling, thus eliminating potential or current damage to the spinal column and nerve roots. Arthritis, however, is most often treated with anti-inflammatory drugs, physical therapy, and lifestyle changes.
  • Injuries can have long term consequences— herniated discs, vertebral damage, and nerve damage can be caused by an injury or may be caused over time by injuries that go untreated.

Again, many of these complications, especially if caught early on, can be treated non-invasively. Surgery relieves pain but at a cost to lifestyle or mobility. If your spine is injured and if your insurance won’t cover the costs of treatment, don’t hesitate to contact us to discuss the options you have available. We offer a free consultation for just this purpose; you need to focus on recovery, not financial worries. Return to Surgeries References: WebMD Mayo Clinic Spine-Health.com

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Personally reviewed by attorney Ken Christensen

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