Spondylolisthesis is a condition characterized by the displacement of one vertebra over the other. Excessive displacement may compress the surrounding spinal nerves and cause pain.
Treatment depends on the age, the extent of the slip, and the severity of symptoms. Surgery is an option if daily activities are difficult to perform because the vertebra continues to slip and the pain does not improve with conservative treatment. The aim of surgical treatment is to relieve the pain and pressure on the spinal nerves.
Spondylolisthesis is treated with two procedures during surgery. First, a decompression laminectomy will be done. An incision is made in the back following which a part of the bone and thickened tissue causing pressure on the spinal nerves is removed. This creates more space for the nerves, thus relieving pain and pressure on the nerves. This procedure is likely to make the spine unstable and therefore another procedure, spinal fusion, is performed to stabilize the spine.
Spinal fusion is the surgical technique of combining two or more vertebrae. The fusion of the vertebrae involves the insertion of secondary bone tissue obtained either through auto graft (tissues from the same patient) or allograft (tissues from another person) to augment the bone healing process. The fusion process is followed by fixation that involves fitting of metallic screws, rods, plates, or cages to stabilize the vertebrae, which helps in preventing continued slippage and accelerate bone fusion. After surgery, 6-12 months is the ideal time for complete fusion to take place.
Risks and Complications
The possible complications after decompression laminectomy and spinal fusion may include:
- Damage to the spinal nerves
- Loss of sensation
- Problems with bowel or bladder control
Following the surgery, your surgeon recommends physical therapy and rehabilitation programs to regain strength in the surrounding bones muscles as well as to make you active soon.