Back, neck and spinal cord injuries are common outcomes of car accidents in California. Even a seemingly minor car accident could cause an injury such as whiplash or a herniated spinal disk. The spinal cord is a sensitive bundle of nerves and vertebrae that affect every other part of the body. An injury to the spine is extremely serious, as the patient could suffer lifelong consequences. Performing certain types of surgeries on the spine after a car accident could minimize the damage, relieve symptoms and help the patient heal.
The goal of a laminectomy is to ease pressure on the spinal nerves that could be causing pain, tingling, numbness or a disability. Laminectomy creates more space in the back by surgically removing the lamina, or the back part of a vertebra. Creating more space can relieve pressure that may be damaging the spinal cord or compressing its delicate nerves.
A laminectomy may be a necessary back surgery after a car accident if the victim suffered a herniated spinal disk or another back injury that causes muscle weakness or incontinence. Laminectomy may also be necessary for a surgeon to access and repair a herniated disk. Surgeons typically reserve laminectomy for after a patient has tried less invasive treatments, such as pain medications or physical therapy, without success.
A discectomy is a procedure usually used to correct a herniated disk. It is the surgical removal of materials in the lumbar spine to relieve pressure on nerve roots or the spinal cord in general. The lumbar spine is in the lower back. A discectomy can restore normal movement and function if a car accident left a survivor with chronic pain or muscle weakness that interferes with daily life.
The lumbar spine contains the five largest vertebrae and strongest back muscles. Even just a strain in the lumbar spine from a car accident could be significantly painful. If a patient has a lumbar herniated disk after a car accident, a discectomy may be a surgery a physician recommends.
Kyphoplasty is a common procedure in car accident patients with fractured spines. Spinal fractures can be extremely painful and lead to issues such as spinal cord instability. A compression fracture could shrink the spine and pinch sensitive nerves. Kyphoplasty could resolve these issues by inserting a small balloon into the vertebrae. The balloon restores a fractured vertebra to its proper position and relieves pressure. Then, the doctor removes the balloon and fills the cavity with polymethylmethacrylate, a cement-like substance that hardens quickly to stabilize the spine.
Vertebroplasty is another common procedure for stabilizing a spine after a fracture. It is an outpatient procedure that is similar to kyphoplasty but without the balloon step. Instead, a doctor goes straight to injecting the cement-like material into the fractured vertebra to stabilize the bone and the spine as a whole. Vertebroplasty and kyphoplasty are minimally invasive surgeries that are common for car accident survivors with pinched nerves or chronic pain.
Spinal fusion is one of the most complex and expensive back surgeries after a car accident. It may be necessary after a serious spinal fracture or bad cases of herniated disks. Spinal fusion surgery fuses two vertebrae together so they heal as one solid bone. This surgery uses screws and plates to permanently connect the two bones. It is a difficult surgery that can cost as much as $300,000.
Spinal fusion can repair major back problems and relieve symptoms such as pain or numbness. A patient will need rehabilitation and pain medications after spinal fusion surgery. It may take several months for the vertebrae to heal and fuse into a single, solid bone. Comfort levels, however, should immediately improve. The patient will have to walk, sit and stand certain ways to allow the spine to heal properly after spinal fusion.