Lower Back (Lumbar) Surgery

Low back pain is one of the most common health problems experienced by most individuals, at different phases of their lives.

The most common causes of low back pain include:

  • Lumbar spinal stenosis
  • Herniated disc
  • Adult degenerative spondylolisthesis
  • Degenerative disc disease

Most patients with low back pain do not require surgery for the management of their condition. However, surgery may be beneficial in patients with persistent pain, spinal instability, weakness or numbness in legs or feet, and impaired bowel or bladder function. Lumbar spine surgery may also be considered if all the conservative methods have failed to provide pain relief.

An open surgery or a minimally invasive technique can be used to relieve nerve compression and stabilize the lumbar spine. Your surgeon may choose a minimally invasive approach rather than open spine surgery, due to the lower incidence of complications with a minimally invasive surgery.

Spinal fusion with instrumentation has been used to treat many painful conditions of the lumbar spine. In spinal fusion surgery two or more vertebrae are joined together with the help of bone grafts to eliminate the movement between them. Spinal instrumentation is used to stabilize the spine, after the fusion, with the help of implants such as rods, plates, screws, and interbody devices.

There are several types of lumbar spine surgeries. If you require a surgery, your doctor will decide on the most appropriate type of surgery, based on your condition. Some of the different lumbar surgeries include:

  • Anterior and posterior lumbar interbody fusion (ALIF or PLIF)
  • Direct lateral lumbar interbody fusion (DLIF)
  • Axial lumbar interbody fusion (ALIF)
  • Intradiscal Electrothermoplasty (IDET)
  • Transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion (TLIF)
  • Image Guided Spine Surgery
  • Laminoplasty
  • Laminotomy

Before surgery

Before the surgery, your doctor will explain the surgical procedure as well as its risks and complications to you. You should obtain a medical clearance, from your physician, before proceeding with the surgery. Your doctor may also order a few blood tests, X-rays, or other imaging tests to assess your medical condition.

After surgery

After the surgery, you will be shifted to the recovery room where your vital signs will be closely monitored by the medical staff. You may have mild discomfort following the surgery.

Post-operative care

You should keep your incision area clean and dry. You should not smoke, drive, lift heavy things, swim or use a hot tub. Start physical therapy as directed by your doctor. Take medications as recommended by your doctor as well as arrange a follow-up appointment with your doctor.


The possible risks associated with lumbar spine surgery may include infection, bleeding, problems with anesthesia, and nerve or spinal cord injury.

Call you doctor if you experience a fever over 101° F or if the incision site shows signs of infection such as pain, redness, swelling, or alteration in the quantity or smell of the drainage. Also contact your doctor if you have trouble with bowel or bladder function or numbness over the genital area.