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Facetectomy overview and treatment alternatives

A facetectomy is an open back surgery designed to remove a portion of spine growth that results from facet disease and has impacted a nerve in the spinal column.

Facet disease, the gradual deterioration of the facet joints in the spine, is typically related to the natural aging process. The facet joints are found in between the vertebrae and discs of the spine and are responsible for allowing movement and bending of the vertebrae. Without the facet joints, we would not be able to bend or twist our spines.

Over time, the facet joints experience years of repetitive motion and twisting, and sometimes an increase of pressure due to weight gain, which causes the cartilage in the facet joints to wear down. If this cartilage wears down too much, the vertebrae risk impacting each other with each movement. In addition to other symptoms, this could lead to the development of a bone spur — a growth off the vertebrae that could compress a spinal nerve.

Facet disease could cause symptoms of local pain, radiating pain, stiffness and limited mobility, as well as numbness, weakness or tingling in the extremities. The purpose of a facetectomy is to relieve pressure on the nerve in the spinal canal by removing part of the damaged facet joint.

The steps of a facetectomy procedure

A facetectomy is typically only performed after a series of conservative treatments have proven ineffective to provide lasting pain relief.

When this procedure is performed as a traditional open back surgery, it involves several highly invasive steps, including:

  • A large incision to reach the joint space of the spine
  • Muscle disruption and cutting to fully access the joint
  • Accidental removal of small portions of nearby ligaments, leading to more nerve compression as these ligaments try to heal after surgery
  • Possible fusion to stabilize the spine if the joint is severely damaged
  • Risks of fusion not holding properly due to excessive scar tissue from the initial incision

This highly invasive procedure also has an increased risk of excessive blood loss and prolonged recovery time due to the large initial incision that cuts and tears the muscles surrounding the spine. Complications from this procedure can lead to a condition known as failed back surgery syndrome.

Minimally invasive alternatives to a facetectomy procedure

At USA Spine Care we offer procedures that are a safer and effective alternative to traditional open back facetectomy.^ If you have any questions about our procedures and the treatments available, contact our dedicated team today.

Using minimally invasive technology and direct visualization technology, our board-certified surgeons+ are able to relieve nerve compression without removing large portions of the spinal anatomy. Our minimally invasive decompression surgery is performed through a less than 1-inch incision and removes a small portion of the displaced spinal anatomy while limiting disruption of surrounding muscles.

For more information about our minimally invasive procedures, or for a no-cost review of your MRI or CT scan* to determine if you are a potential candidate, contact USA Spine Care today.

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