How Tiger Woods Spinal Fusion Surgery Saved His Career
Just when the world thought that Tiger Woods’ career is over, he came back and stunned the world by winning the 2019 Masters. After all, he did have three back surgeries since 2014, all of which failed, and he had been taking opioids to ease the pain.
But, one last operation done in 2017 made all the difference. The procedure is called spinal fusion, and it was so effective. Tiger fused back helped him get to his top form.
Anyone suffering from chronic back pain knows that even the easiest of physical activities can prove to be an ordeal. What more for a world-class athlete like Woods, who needs to be in top physical form when playing his sport?
Tiger Woods had to go through that painful experience for years. He had sciatic pain and spasms on his legs that he struggled to just simply stand up or sit down, let alone swing a golf club. He knew that if he wanted to live a ‘normal’ life, he had to do something. And that something was spinal fusion done by Tiger Woods’ back surgeon.
What Is Spinal Fusion?
Before the successful Tiger Woods back operation, he had three surgeries involving lumbar discectomies. None of them eased the severe back that the legendary golfer was going through.
So in 2017, he decided to go through the most complex operation he had in his entire life. Less than a couple of years later, he beat the top players, some of whom are much younger than him.
The medical name for that Tiger Woods back surgery is anterior lumbar inter-body fusion or ALIF.
Spinal fusion is often recommended for patients with the following condition:
- Spine deformities. Spinal deformities like scoliosis, a condition wherein the spine curves sideways, can be corrected by spinal fusion.
- Spinal instability or weakness. The spine can become unstable when there’s excessive or abnormal movement between the two vertebrae. Spinal arthritis is usually the culprit for this condition. Spinal stability can be restored through spinal fusion.
- Herniated disk. A damaged or herniated disk can be removed, and spinal fusion will then stabilize the spine.
What Are the Risks?
The spinal fusion procedure is generally safe, but like any other surgical procedure, there are also risks of complications. Here are some of them:
- Slow wound healing
- Blood clots
- Pain coming from where the doctor took the bone graft
- Injury to nerves or blood vessels surrounding the spine
The Spinal Fusion Procedure
Spinal fusion is performed under general anesthesia, so the patient is unconscious during surgery. Several techniques have been developed by surgeons on how spinal fusion surgery is performed. The technique to be used will depend on the following factors:
- Where the vertebrae to be fused are located
- What spinal fusion surgery is for
- The patient’s body shape and general health
The procedure goes like this.
- To access the vertebrae to be fused, the surgeon will make an incision in the back and directly over the spine, in one side of the spine, or in the abdomen to get front access to the spine.
- Preparation of the bone graft. The bone graft will be used to fuse the two vertebrae from the patient’s body or a bone bank. If the graft will be taken from the patient, it usually comes from the pelvic bone where a small section is removed.
- The bone graft is placed between the vertebrae, which will eventually fuse permanently. To let the bone graft heal, the vertebrae should be held together using rods, screws, and a metal plate.
The surgeon may also use a graft made from synthetic substances. This helps the bone grow faster and speed up the vertebrae’s fusion.
After the Procedure
The patient may be required to stay up to three days in the hospital after the surgery. Depending on the extent and location of the surgery, the patient may experience some discomfort and pain, but these are generally well-controlled using medications.
While the patient is recovering at home, the doctor should be called when these infection signs occur:
- Swelling, tenderness, or redness
- Shaking chills
- Wound drainage
- Body temperature above 100.4 F.
The healing and fusing process of the vertebrae and bone graft will take a few months. During this period, the doctor may recommend the use of a brace to keep the spine aligned correctly. Physical therapy is also recommended to teach the patient how to stand, sit, walk, and move in a way that keeps the spine properly aligned.
Results of the Spinal Fusion Surgery
Spinal fusion has proven to be an effective approach to treating instability, deformities, or fractures of the spine. But, results may vary from one patient to another, depending on what is causing the neck or back pain.
Tiger Woods back operation success percentage is rare in the sense that he was able to go back to his prime form after the surgery. That’s also because he is an elite athlete to begin with, and one who has practiced the sport since he was a toddler, which can be a significant factor in the success of Tiger back fusion.
Spinal Fusion Surgery in Texas
For people who are suffering from chronic severe pain involving the spine, surgery is often recommended. We at Minimally Invasive Neurosurgery of Texas can help you choose the best option for your specific condition. We are located in Plano TX, and our clinic is owned and operated by Dr. Scott Kutz, MD, one of the best spine doctors in the state. Call us now at (972) 244-3491 to book an appointment.