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The Truth About Spine Surgery

8 common myths debunked by doctors.

For someone suffering from back or neck pain, the words spine surgery can evoke some strong emotions.  There are terms that get tossed around when people are discussing the potential surgical treatment options, but what do they really mean?  With so many treatment options available, it’s important to understand what spine surgery is and isn’t, what it can and cannot treat, and its advantages versus disadvantages. Maybe you’ve been told you need a fusion but want to know more about artificial disc replacement.  Maybe you’ve heard about endoscopic spine surgery but aren’t really sure what it entails.  We’ve got you covered.

We sat down with spine surgeons on the medical staff at  Texas Health Center for Diagnostics & Surgery in Plano to get you the facts about spine surgery. These surgeons are among the best in the field when it comes to the latest advancements in spine surgery and address some of the biggest misconceptions they hear about spine surgery.

The Truth About Results

Myth: You can’t cure back pain.

Fact: The reality is that most back pain can be treated conservatively through weight loss, core exercises, aerobic conditioning, and practicing proper body mechanics. And for those few who don’t respond to conservative care, lumbar artificial disc replacement may offer them a natural solution, much like total hip replacement over traditional fusion.  – Richard Guyer, M.D.

Myth: When people talk to friends or relatives, spine surgery can get a “bad rap.” Some even say that any spine surgery will have a poor result.

Fact: The success of any spine surgery depends upon choosing the right patient, choosing the right surgery, and executing the surgery appropriately. Therefore, if all three aspects are met, spine surgery will undoubtedly have a better result—and disprove the misperception! This is why it is important to seek an expert opinion from a reputable spine specialist—to maximize potential good outcomes. – Michael Duffy, M.D.

The Truth About Recovery

Myth: Spine surgery recovery takes a very long time.

Fact: While traditional open spinal surgery often involves long incisions in the back with large areas of tissue damage requiring longer healing time and recovery, many modern techniques employ less invasive approaches with much smaller incisions, less bleeding, and minimal scarring. By minimizing tissue damage, we can achieve less postoperative pain, reduced complications, and ultimately faster recovery. Patients have shorter hospital stays, and, in fact, some can return home on the same day of surgery. – Uche Davidson, M.D.

Myth: All spine surgery leaves patients with lifelong functional limitations.

Fact: The majority of spinal conditions can be well managed without surgery. However, when surgical intervention is called for, advances in minimally invasive surgical techniques, including muscle sparing approaches, have allowed for rapid recovery and, more importantly, return to completely normal life without activity limitations. – AJ Rush, M.D.

The Truth About Pain

Myth: Spine surgery requires a painful, protracted recovery.

Fact: While this tended to be the case in the past, advances in minimally invasive and endoscopic techniques have revolutionized the field. These allow for surgery through tiny incisions, but more importantly, preserve the muscles and other important stabilizing structures beneath. As a result, we can now use these advanced techniques to address spinal issues with minimal downtime. The vast majority of my patients are comfortably home within hours of surgery, and many are back at work within days.  – Peter Derman, M.D.

The Truth About Options

Myth: I have a bad back. Therefore, I need surgery.

Fact: The truth is that the majority of spine conditions do not require surgery. Although there are circumstances where spine surgery may be the best option for you, surgery can be avoided most of the time. Spine surgery is usually reserved for patients who have failed all varieties of conservative management, including but not limited to physical therapy, weight loss, medications, and injections. Alternatively, urgent spine surgery is usually reserved for patients who have a new onset progressive neurological deficit. Outside of these two scenarios, the patient usually can improve without going under the knife. It is important to have a discussion with your surgeon about all your options, both surgical and nonsurgical before diving into a spine operation. – Michael Wheeler, M.D.

Myth: Spinal fusion is my only surgical option.

Fact:  Spinal fusion can be avoided for many patients. Spinal fusion is most often indicated when there is symptomatic abnormal motion (instability) or spinal deformity (scoliosis) that has been refractory to conservative treatment. We know that fusion operations help patients significantly in these instances. However, we now have a number of techniques that allow us to treat patients without fusion. Minimally invasive decompression techniques and motion-preserving options, like disc replacement, allow surgeons to effectively treat symptomatic spinal conditions without fusing the spine. Often, these techniques expedite recovery and reduce the risk for additional surgery in the future. – Alexander Satin, M.D.

The Truth About Incisions

Myth: Smaller incisions are always better.

Fact: Surgical preservation of the critical structures is usually more important. Make sure you talk to your surgeon and work through the option that is as minimally invasive as possible for you but still maximizes the potential results.  – Raj Arakal, M.D.

To learn more about advancements in spine surgery or to make an appointment with one of the physicians on their medical staff, visit thcds.com to learn more.


Texas Health Center for Diagnostics & Surgery is a physician-owned hospital serving the people of Collin, Dallas, and Denton counties. The hospital is an award-winning facility offering a wide range of services, including robotic surgery, artificial disc replacement, joint replacement surgery, endoscopy, and breast MRI. Designed with a boutique hotel in mind, patients enjoy a more comfortable setting than what is typically offered in a large, full-service traditional hospital. From up-close parking to room service meals prepared by a culinary-trained chef, the entire hospital staff provides compassionate care that is focused on patients and their families. The hospital is accredited by The Joint Commission, an independent, not-for-profit organization that accredits and certifies healthcare firms and is recognized nationwide as a symbol of quality that reflects an organization’s commitment to meeting certain performance standards.

Texas Health Center for Diagnostics & Surgery is a joint venture owned by Texas Health Resources and physicians dedicated to the community and meets the definition under federal law of physician-owned hospitals. Physicians on the medical staff practice independently and are not employees or agents of the hospital.

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