Dr. K. Samer Shamieh and Dr. Jeremy R. James before surgery

Frequently Asked Questions

What Every Patient Should Know Before Surgery

A spine procedure is a big decision. It is important that you fully understand your specific condition and treatment options. In the past, New Orleans spine surgery was restricted to invasive, open procedures.

Today, Minimally Invasive Surgery, or MIS, has become the procedure of choice for many spinal surgical procedures to correct many common spinal conditions causing pain of the back,leg, neck and arm. When compared to traditional, invasive or “open” procedures, MIS is consistently generating the highest percentage of positive outcomes. MIS’ fine-tissue manipulation is more technically demanding than older, open surgery procedures. As a result, New Orleans Spine Surgeon K. Samer Shamieh, MD and Northshore Spine Surgeon Jeremy R. James, MD are the only spine surgeons in our region with the training, skill, and technology to provide MIS surgery. You and your primary care physician may have questions for the DISC of Louisiana Team. You are always welcome to Ask Drs. Shamieh and James, or Contact Us at (985)400-5778. Below, you will find many of the questions asked by patients who have benefited from MIS.

When Should I Consider Surgery?

Surgery should always be the last resort. However, if non-operative treatments have been attempted without improvement or worsening over a 6-12 month period, then surgical treatment may be a reasonable option for certain specific conditions such as spinal stenosis, sciatica, spondylolisthesis or degenerative disk disease.

Does Spine Surgery Really Work?

Yes, surgery can work beautifully. Many individuals have heard from various friends that no one ever gets better from spine surgery, especially fusions. Certainly, individuals and their surgeons can have widely varied results from surgery. We try and fit the operation to the patient’s best interests and needs. Not everyone will have complete success, but an excellent surgeon, doing the appropriate operation, on the right patient has a high likelihood of success. DISC of Louisiana spine surgeons are excellent. We discuss all the risks and benefits of surgery to try and make you fully aware before you undergo any procedure.

What is Laser Spine Surgery?

Laser spine surgery has become a hot topic recently. Scientific evidence has shown no relationship between the use of a laser and the outcome of the procedure. Insurance does not cover this procedure and most centers that provide this service ask their patients to pay an out-of-pocket expense for use of the technology. We feel that more traditional approaches that involve minimally invasive procedures are best.

When Would I Need A Disc Fusion?

In general, we try to do the least amount of surgery to alleviate the pain and symptoms. Sometimes, due to a patient’s anatomy and pathology, a fusion is recommended to prevent instability or slipping of one vertebra onto another, creating additional pain or increased nerve root irritation. Our surgeons will identify those individuals at risk and recommend the additional procedure of a fusion of the spine to prevent those problems from occurring.

Is A Disc Replacement Right for Me?

We offer a Disc Replacement as alternatives to fusions. We have been involved in many FDA investigational studies that have brought Disc Replacement devices to market under FDA approval. Disc Replacements can offer a great alternative to fusion for many New Orleans spine surgery patients.

How Long Will I Be in the Hospital?

In general, minimally invasive spine surgery decreases the hospital stay by one-half. The immediate post-operative period is marked by much less pain when using minimally invasive techniques. In a typical  discectomy or laminectomy, the patients go home shortly after surgery on the same day. For various types of lumbar fusion surgery, the patient typically goes home in 1-2 days, where previously they stayed in the hospital 5-7 days.

Will I Be Able to Bend Over if I Have a Fusion?

Many persons are worried that, by having a fusion, they will be unable to bend over and touch the floor or pick up objects. Most motion occurs in the hip joints, and if you have moderately normal hip motion, you should be able to maintain the ability to pick up objects. You may lose some of the rotational motion in the lumbar spine, but this is usually well compensated for by hip and pelvis interaction. The normal aging process slowly reduces motion of the lumbar and cervical spine. This happens very slowly over time, and patients may not even be aware of it. Scoliosis patients with long fusions from the pelvis to the neck can sometimes bend over and touch the floor without difficulty if they maintain hip motion and muscle flexibility.

Am I a Candidate for Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery?

The field of minimally invasive spine surgery continues to grow. Most surgeries today can be treated with some aspect of minimally invasive surgery. The best options should be individualized to the patient’s diagnosis and overall patient condition. At DISC of Louisiana we perform both minimally invasive spine surgery, as well as open-surgery, giving us the ability to choose the type of treatment that is best suited for each individual patient.

When Can I Go Back to Work?

The decision to return to work should be individualized to the patient, as well as the patient’s occupation. For patients with sedentary jobs, such as office work, a minimally invasive discectomy would allow that patient to begin part-time work within 1-2 weeks. For a larger surgery such as a fusion, this may take 4-6 weeks. Again, return to work is much faster using minimally invasive surgery vs. standard open surgery but this decision is individualized to special needs of each patient.

Do You Use Lasers Spine Surgery?

Minimally invasive spine surgery utilizes a wide variety of advanced techniques, including endoscopes, operating microscopes, as well as computer-assisted navigation systems, so that procedures typically done with a large, open incision can be done through small openings. By necessity, advanced technologies are needed to accomplish the same task that we would otherwise do with an open procedure using more basic equipment.

How Does MIS compare to Traditional, Open Surgery?

Minimally invasive spine surgery holds significant promise, in terms of less pain and more rapid recovery. However, it is important to keep in mind that this is relatively new technology, and all new techniques are associated with some degree of uncertainty. Furthermore, certain minimally invasive techniques are highly technical and require significant training. There are very few New Orleans spine surgeons who perform minimally invasive spine surgery. A lack of training can lead to complicatoins. Such complications can include inadequate decompression, nerve injury, infection or persistent pain. However, these are all risks that are associated with open surgery as well. Occasionally, due to the complexity and technical challenges of minimally invasive surgery, the surgeries may take a longer period of time to complete.  Through our extensive training, the DISC team of physicians has by-passed this learning curve.

Is Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery Experimental?

No. MIS has been used successfully for many years. Every year, technological advances allow us to perform more complex procedures through smaller incisions.  Long term data shows the advantages of minimally invasive techniques over traditional open surgery.  Through continuing education, the DISC of Louisiana Team of surgeons continue to provide cutting edge techniques to the New Orleans Spine Surgery community and the people of the Gulf Coast.

Why Aren’t More Hospitals and Surgeons Performing MIS?

Minimally invasive surgery is highly technical. This requires significant training of the surgeon as well as the OR staff. Furthermore, the equipment needed to perform these procedures safely and effectively can be very expensive. DISC of Louisiana is committed to the advancing New Orleans Spine Surgery and the surrouding areas with the latest MIS technologies.

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