Spine Conditions – Adjacent Segment Disease (ASD)

Research studies show that the incidence of adjacent segment disease is around three percent in the cervical spine. However, in the lumbar spine, the incidence of this disease ranges from two percent to 14 percent.

What is adjacent segment disease?

Adjacent segment disease is characterized by complications after spine surgery. Some studies show that adjacent segment degeneration is due to the weakening of the spine over time.

Various clinical and review studies have shown that the disease is common after lumbar interbody fusion surgery with an incidence rate of 3-14%. After the surgeon performs the fusion surgery, there occurs a significant load on the patient’s discs and vertebrae, especially below and above the site where the surgery was performed.

Some surgical methods, such as the fusion technique and the anterior cervical discectomy lead to risks of development of adjacent segment disease. Generally, people who are above the age of 55 and post-menopausal women have higher risks of developing ASD.

What are the causes of adjacent segment disease?

ASD is a spinal disorder, which develops after the interbody fusion of the spine. The interbody surgery usually involves placing the bone graft material to make the two vertebrae fused into a single, solid bone. Spinal fusion can lead to potential complications, and one of them is ASD. Some studies show that the disease is often caused by natural degeneration of the spine due to aging.

Also known as the adjacent segment degeneration and transitional syndrome, there are many causes of ASD, which means we can’t blame spinal fusion procedure as the only reason for the disorder. For instance, research studies have proven that aging is the biggest cause of ASD due to degenerative changes in the spine.

In other situations, the discs in the spine and joint can change, such as bulging and spondylosis. These degenerative changes also cause ASD. So, if you are an older person above the age of 55, it means the segment around the fusion area may already have begun the process of degeneration, and this could happen even before the surgery.

There are various risk factors associated with ASD, such as older age, use of tobacco and alcohol, previously herniated disc, previous open back surgery, multi-level spinal fusion, and others. All these risk factors can cause adjacent segment degeneration.

What are the possible treatments for ASD?

In general, doctors treat ASD similarly to other spinal disorders. The most common treatment options are conservative measures, which include physical therapy, exercise, certain medications, and steroid injections. However, research shows that these treatment options have lower effectiveness in most patients, especially for those who are above the age of 55.

Physical therapy, for instance, can help treat ASD because it improves body mechanics. At the same time, your doctor may prescribe some spinal injections and medications as initial treatment. The purpose of this first-line of treatment is to reduce inflammation and ease the pain. On the other hand, when these treatments fail, the doctor or surgeon may suggest minimally invasive surgery for your ASD.

Minimally invasive spine surgery

Many clinical studies have shown that minimally invasive procedures, such as PLIF and TLIF are effective in reducing the incident rate of adjacent segment disease. Compared to open surgery, minimally invasive surgery is suitable for decreasing the risks associated with ASD.

Besides, a wide range of studies supports the option of minimally invasive techniques for treating adjacent segment disease and other degenerative deformities. However, our surgeons here at the Minimally Invasive Neurosurgery of Texas suggest the understanding of spinal balance and spinopelvic parameters.

Because the surgeon will make a small incision, it means you will less scarring. Similarly, with minimally invasive surgery, there is no load on the discs or vertebrae below and above the site of surgery.

Compared to incisions made in traditional, open surgery, the smaller incisions involved in the minimally invasive surgery are not made through the muscles, which means less damage to the tissues.

Due to smaller incisions and fewer stitches, minimally invasive techniques, such as TLIF and PLIF for adjacent segment disease are effective and lead to a quicker recovery. Also, decreased pain leads to less use of medications. However, physical therapy sessions are important after surgery. It is an essential part of the rehabilitation process.

MINT has qualified, experienced, and professional surgeons who are knowledgeable about the minimally invasive surgery techniques and make substantial efforts to perform the surgery adequately. That’s why the success rate of MIS for adjacent segment disease at MINT is over 95%. Contact us today!