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Expert speak: Top 7 spine surgery myths busted



If you’re about to have spine surgery, you must understand what you’re getting yourself into. All of your misconceptions about the process need to be cleared up. Dr. Gurneet Shawney. Who is one of the Best Spine Surgeon in Mumbai, working at the Department of Neurosurgery, Fortis Hospital, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India, debunks the seven most frequent spine surgery fallacies.

Myth 1: Spine surgery always results in paralysis.
Fact: This is a prevalent misconception concerning spine surgery, but it is untrue. The odds of paralysis are fewer than 1% using today’s technology (microscope and navigation assistance). Though there is still some risk, spine surgeries are becoming safer and safer with each passing day, thanks to developments in operating procedures.

Myth 2: Spine surgery should be used only as a last resort.
Fact: This is untrue. When indicated during an illness, spine surgery should be performed at the appropriate time. When there is a chance of paralysis soon, or paralysis has already begun to set in, it is indicated early on. When a patient has back or neck pain and no evidence of nerve compression, surgery can be postponed.
We always offer non-surgical methods first, such as physiotherapy, exercises, and medications, in such circumstances. Surgery is only indicated if the patient does not improve after two months of conservative treatment. The purpose of surgery is to alleviate pain, restore function, and rectify spinal abnormalities. Before surgery, it’s critical that your doctor correctly diagnoses your issues. If the detection is correct, the chances of success improve.

Myth 3: There’s a good likelihood you’ll need another surgery in the future.
Fact: It’s not true that one spine operation leads to another. According to a Mumbai-based spine doctor, in over 90% of cases, only one correctly performed spine surgery at the appropriate time is sufficient. A second operation is not required in the vast majority of cases. However, for the procedure to be effective, the patient must follow specific recommendations and precautions. Simple things like stopping smoking, losing weight, and exercising regularly following surgery are included in these recommendations. If these recommendations are not followed, a second surgery may be required in rare situations.

Myth 4: After spine surgery, you must stay in bed for a long time.
Fact: In most cases, doctors will not advise the patient to stay in bed. In fact, the majority of our patients begin walking the next day. They are supported by a dedicated team of physiotherapists and pain management professionals during this time. Furthermore, recent techniques such as “keyhole surgery” and “minimally invasive techniques,” in which the entire surgery is performed through a small incision, allow the patient to walk the same day (in some cases, we even discharge the patient home the same day).
Because the incision is small and fewer muscles are cut during the surgery, this is achievable. We nearly never advise the patient to stay in bed. We, on the other hand, prefer to mobilize our patients as soon as possible.

Myth 5: It’s excruciatingly painful.
Fact: This myth was mainly accurate in the days when open spinal procedures required a long incision and a lot of muscle severing. In comparison to prior eras, spine procedures are now relatively painless. We may directly discharge the patient in less than 2 hours thanks to technical breakthroughs, as modern surgery involves an incision no larger than a fingernail. However, this is not the case in this instance.
We are gradually progressing toward painless operation. We don’t even use anesthetics in our institutes for some procedures like discectomy. During the surgery, the patient is awake and even speaks to us. The post-surgical discomfort is substantially reduced for significant surgeries like spinal fixation that use minimally invasive techniques (minor incision surgery), and hospitalization is only necessary for two days.
There is essentially no bleeding, and scarring is negligible, thanks to the relatively smaller incisions used in keyhole surgery. All of these things help to lessen the need for analgesics.

Myth 6: Spine surgery has a significant complication rate.
Fact: It is no longer valid. In general, the complication rate in spine surgery is less than 3%. In most cases, we use a state-of-the-art ‘neuromonitoring system,’ which continuously monitors every nerve during surgery and eliminates any possibility of error. We cannot avoid any nerve issues using this approach, and we have a 100% success record.
According to a well-known spine surgeon from Mumbai-Dr. Gurneet Shawney, complication rates have decreased dramatically due to developments in spine surgery techniques and available technologies. We may now use the ‘O-arm’ and ‘neuromonitoring to double-check every surgery step to ensure a complication-free outcome for the patient.

Myth 7: After spine surgery, there are a lot of physical limitations.

In most cases, this is not the case. Even after significant spine surgery, most patients can stand and walk the day after the procedure. Lifting light weights (up to 5 kg) is permitted beginning on the tenth day, while driving is allowed in the second week. From the third week onwards, sitting on the ground and sexual activity are permitted, bending forward after one month.
There is no restriction of activity in cases where surgery is performed using an endoscopic approach. Exceptions include complicated spine injuries with numerous fractures, which may necessitate a more extended period of immobilization. However, such patients make up a modest percentage of all operated cases, usually less than 5%.