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Making a Decision About Back Surgery

Only 10 years ago, if you had spine surgery, you could expect to take as much as one year before returning to normal activities. “Minimally invasive techniques allow for shorter hospital stays, faster recovery, and smaller scars, especially with back surgery” says Michael P. Donahue, DO, Orthopaedic spine surgeon on staff at Crittenton.

Dr. Donahue has advanced training in diseases of the spine. He is a graduate of the prestigious Maryland Orthopaedic Spine Fellowship in Baltimore and has trained in minimally invasive techniques.

A Painful Condition

Degenerated disks are among the most common causes of low back pain. These disks, made up mostly of water, separate and cushion the spinal column’s 29 vertebrae. They naturally lose water with age. As this happens, the disk compresses.

Degenerated disks are more likely to become herniated or ruptured—also known as a slipped disk. But severe trauma, such as an auto accident, can cause a normal disk to rupture or make a ruptured disk worse. The ruptured disk pushes outward, sometimes pressing on nerves. This results in pain, muscle weakness, or numbness that can radiate from the back to the legs and feet.

Not Your Father’s Back Surgery

Dr. Donahue has a conservative approach to surgery. “I recommend considering less invasive treatments first, including physical therapy, chiropractic care, and pain management, always knowing that surgery is truly a last resort,” he says.

When surgery is necessary, using minimally invasive surgical techniques allows doctors to make smaller incisions, and patients lose less blood during surgery. With the assistance of small surgical instruments, Dr. Donahue can use one or more ½-inch incisions to perform the same procedure that he would otherwise perform using a single large incision.

“With the field of minimally invasive surgery changing rapidly, patients will continue to have additional options available to them, making the decision to have surgery a little easier,” says Dr. Donahue.

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