Advances in medicine are enabling disabled clients to achieve better outcomes after spine injuries. New surgical techniques, equipment and prosthetics have allowed ABRAMS LANDAU clients to regain pre-injury levels of function, and in a number of cases, return to work after sustaining herniated discs, fractured bones and nerve damage in their spinal cords. Traditional treatment often consists of conservative (non-operative treatment such as rest, physical therapy, medication, modified duty or "off work" status), care first, and then surgery. This operative procedure for those suffering from spinal stenosis (narrowing of the vertebral canal that separates the spinal cord from the surrounding hard, bony vertebrae) can be a laminectomy with fusion. This procedure, while effective, involves removing bone in the neck or low back and then stabilizing the spinal column with rods, screws and a bone graft. Patients usually lose range of motion in the neck or lower back. As a result, during an accident, they are more likely to suffer serious spinal cord injuries.
There is a less invasive option: laminoplasty. According to Georgetown University Hospital surgeons, this procedure is "widely used in Japan and gaining a foothold in the U.S. Laminoplasty calls for one of the spine’s two laminae—plates of bone in the vertebrae—to be opened vertically but not removed. A parallel shallow groove is made in the other lamina to serve as a hinge, allowing the surgeon to pry open the bone that was sliced through. Wedges are then inserted in the open area to free the compressed nerves and prevent the bones from growing back together and closing the gap. Since no bone is removed, fusion is not necessary and range of motion can be preserved. MedStar Georgetown University Hospital is one of the few hospitals in the area to offer this approach, which also provides patients with quicker recoveries. With fusion, most patients spend four to six weeks in a hard surgical collar. By contrast, laminoplasty patients wear no collar and are encouraged to start moving the neck within a week of the surgery." It will be interesting to see how this new procedure develops, as we welcome safe advances that can help return our clients to functionality and their pre-injury activities of daily living.