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What is spinal surgery?

Spinal surgery is a surgical procedure performed anywhere along the spine, from the top of the neck to the base of the lower back. It is carried out by a neurosurgeon with the aim of treating a problem in the neck, upper back or lower back.

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Minimally-invasive spinal surgery

This type of surgery involves making small incisions to gain access to the structures being operated on. It can be used for cases such as slipped discs or trapped nerves resulting in back pain and/or sciatica (pain radiating down the back of the leg). Where this approach can be used, it often results in less muscle damage from the surgery, less scarring, reduced pain following the operation, and a faster recovery time.

Complex spinal surgery

This involves more extensive surgical techniques to treat complex spinal problems. Examples include reconstruction for major spinal deformity such as scoliosis (where the spine twists and curves to the side), and following trauma or vertebral fractures.

Complex surgery is also needed in the treatment of cancers and metastatic lesions (areas of cancer spread) that can arise from other types of cancer.

Which conditions may require spinal surgery?

Many spinal problems can be treated effectively using physiotherapy and medications or injections. However, some causes of spinal problems require surgery to relieve symptoms.

Back pain

Some causes of back pain can be treated with a spinal fusion procedure (where two or more vertebrae are fused together into a single, solid bone), or through surgical stabilisation of the lower spine.

These procedures are targeted at treating back pain that is caused by instability of the lower back, spinal stenosis (narrowing of the spaces within the spine), general wear and tear of the spine, or fractures.


This is caused by a pinching of the sciatic nerve from the spine. The sciatic nerve runs down the back of the leg, so pinching of this nerve causes a characteristic shooting pain down the back of the legs. Surgery to remove any small bony spurs or a bulging disc that may be pinching the sciatic nerve can provide relief.

Disc degeneration

Sometimes the discs between the vertebrae in the spine can degenerate, causing pain and reduced movement. Surgery can be performed to remove the degenerated disc and replace it with a prosthetic disc.

What are the risks associated with spinal surgery?

As with every surgical procedure, there are a number of risks to consider. The neurosurgeon will be able to discuss these in detail, and help weigh up the risks and benefits of having the surgery.


During surgery

 The potential risks during surgery include:

  • Allergic reaction to any of the medications given as part of the general anaesthetic
  • Neurological damage (resulting in numbness, tingling, weakness or pain following spinal surgery)
  • Excessive bleeding during the procedure
  • Very rarely, paralysis or death can occur.


After surgery 

Some of the general issues to be aware of following surgery include:

  • Pain - both over the incision site and from the surrounding muscles and tissues. This is often reduced following minimally-invasive spinal surgery
  • Infection – This can occur at the site of the surgery itself or rarely, at other sites in the body
  • Increased risk of developing a blood clot, this is known as deep vein thrombosis (DVT). In rare cases, the clot travels to the lungs, causing a serious problem called a pulmonary embolism
  • Excessive bleeding from the wound
  • Unresolved symptoms: Sometimes, despite undergoing spinal surgery, it is possible for the initial symptoms to come back, or even get worse.

Our specialist experts, anaesthetists and their teams are very experienced and will do their best to minimise any risks. They will discuss all the risks and benefits to individuals before surgery and be on hand to answer any questions.

Following surgery, if any unexpected symptoms are experienced, or problems persist or worsen, then patients are advised to make contact with their specialist teams immediately.

How long does it take to recover from spinal surgery?

Most people stay in hospital for three to seven days following spinal surgery. The length of stay often depends on the patient’s health prior to surgery, as well as their pain levels following the surgery.

A full recovery depends on the initial symptoms and the type of surgery that was performed.

We are also able to offer an extensive range of expert-led physical therapies to accommodate all health needs both before and after the surgery;



Why choose The London Clinic?

At The London Clinic, we offer access to leading specialists in the field of pain management, with excellent clinical support teams, and the very best facilities and equipment available.

Our multidisciplinary team will perform an extensive assessment of each patient and create a personalised plan to prepare them for their spinal surgery. By ensuring each patient is as well as they can be before their surgery, we can help optimise their recovery following it.