Have Back Pain With Leg Pain? Minimally Invasive Surgery Can Have You Up and Walking in Hours.

 
 

If you picked up a box that was too heavy, overindulged in your favorite sport or just slept funny, you might be experiencing neck or back pain. You’re not alone. It is estimated that 90 percent of adults will suffer from back pain that can keep you home from work for days, if not weeks. 

In most cases, a little bedrest, some ice and ibuprofen and your minor back pain will subside in just a few weeks. Other more serious cases of lingering back pain with pain in the arms or legs could be caused by herniated discs, spinal stenosis or spondylolisthesis, and it might be time for surgical intervention. 

Don’t let the idea of back surgery scare you. We talked with Dr. Duane D. H. Pitt, a Board Certified Orthopedic Surgeon and recognized Top Doctor in the field of orthopedic surgery, who said that long hospital stays and long recovery times are in the past. “Today, with minimally invasive spinal surgery, there isn’t as much physical impact on the patient and you’re out of the hospital faster with reduced pain and disability,” he explains. 

Minimally invasive spinal surgery also means a much smaller incision. “There is no need to expose a large area of the spine just to address one small area of it,” explains Dr. Pitt. 

Minimally invasive spinal surgery is used to correct problems in the lumbar, thoracic and cervical sections of the spine. The procedure allows the doctor to either remove portions of a bone or a herniated disk or fuse painful vertebrae together to reduce pain. 

“Patients with leg or arm pain – and very little in the way of back pain -- are the best candidates for minimally invasive spinal surgery,” says Pitt – who performs more than 200 minimally invasive surgeries per year.

Surgery is done on an outpatient basis and patients can recover at home with far less pain and disability. “Most patients are up and walking within 1-2 hours after surgery,” said Pitt. “Typically, there’s an incredible 98% chance that the patient’s leg or arm pain will be gone and an 80% chance of having remarkable improvement on back and neck pain.”

 
 

“Patients with leg or arm pain – and very little in the way of back pain -- are the best candidates for minimally invasive spinal surgery,” says Pitt – who performs more than 200 minimally invasive surgeries per year.

 
 

Dr. Pitt cautions that some patients aren’t eligible for outpatient minimally invasive spinal surgery. “If a patient has had significant heart, respiratory or kidney dysfunction, uncontrolled diabetes or uncontrolled hypertension, they won’t be eligible for most surgeries” he explains. “It would need to be performed in the hospital.” 

A common misperception about minimally invasive surgery is that it takes longer than a traditional surgery. “The traditional way of operating on a patient with spondylolisthesis would take two to four hours, but with minimally invasive surgery, I can do it in two to three hours. There's a little bit of an improvement in the surgical time with far greater improvements in recovery and pain,” says Dr. Pitt. 

Of course, with every surgery there is always the potential for side effects. “The risks of a minimally invasive surgery are the same as for a traditional surgery,” says Dr. Pitt. “Heart attack, coma and death are rare, but specific to spinal surgery there is risk of infection, bleeding and nerve injury. However, because minimally invasive surgery reduces the amount of tissue injury and disruptions, your chance for risks are actually lower.”

About three to six weeks after surgery, the patient will start rehabilitation, although some will not need physical therapy. “I encourage patients to walk up to three miles per day by the end of three weeks as part of their rehab,” said Pitt. “Patients who are unable to do that before because of their leg pain are often happy that they could do it afterwards.” 

Most patients will also discontinue narcotic pain meds between three to six weeks after surgery.  

To find the right surgeon to operate on your back and get rid of your pain, Dr. Pitt recommends one that has also done hundreds of minimally invasive surgeries per year. His secret to finding out the real scoop on a surgeon? Ask the nurses. “They see every doctor at their facility and will tell you who’s good.”

Before you know it, that achy breaky back pain will be a thing of the past. 

 

ABOUT THE EXPERT

Duane D. Pitt, MD

Orthopaedic Spine Surgery
Spinal Surgery

AZSpineSurgeon.com