Spinal stenosis is the narrowing of the canal through which the spinal cord passes. This narrowing causes compression of nerves which can result in pain, pain radiating down the leg (Sciatica), loss of bowel or bladder function, numbness or weakness. The incidence of spinal stenosis increases with age.
Spinal stenosis is diagnosed based on a patient's history, symptoms, physical examination and diagnostic studies such as X-rays, CT scan, MRI or myelogram. Treatment is decided based on the severity of the patient's symptoms and the degree of narrowing and nerve compression. First line treatment for spinal stenosis includes non-invasive measures such as pain medications, steroid injections and physical therapy. Surgery for spinal stenosis is reserved for those patients who have debilitating disease, neurological deficits, loss of bowel or bladder functions or difficulty with balance and who have not experienced significant relief from the non-invasive treatment options previously mentioned. Several surgical approaches exist and your neurosurgeon will choose the one best suited for your condition. The surgical options include: decompressive laminectomy, foraminotomy (an opening made into part of the vertebra to give more room for nerves to pass through), laminotomy (an opening made into the back portion of a vertebra to create more space for the spinal canal), OR spinal fusion (fusing vertebrae together to improve spinal column stability).