Spine Surgery

Surgery for spine, neck and back conditions at Scripps


Surgery for spine, neck and back conditions at Scripps

Our physicians and surgeons who specialize in spine injuries are nationally recognized for their expertise, which has helped Scripps be named among the nation's best for adult orthopedic care in San Diego from U.S. News & World Report.

At Scripps, patients have a choice of more orthopedists devoted to the treatment of cervical, thoracic and lumbar spine conditions than any other regional health care provider.

Spine conditions treated

Orthopedic surgeon at Scripps Health in San Diego talks to a patient with a back injury.

Spine conditions treated

The spine specialists at Scripps provide some of the most advanced surgical and non-surgical treatments available.

Comprehensive spine care

A physician at Scripps Health in San Diego uses X-ray imaging to diagnose and treat orthopedic conditions.

Comprehensive spine care

Scripps spine surgeons offer a wide range of treatment options for diseases and conditions affecting the spine.

Care and treatment for spine injuries or conditions

Diagnostics for the spine

Scripps has advanced imaging technologies and facilities to give our orthopedists the most accurate information to treat orthopedic injuries and conditions. Scripps also offers convenience for patients needing X-ray imaging, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans and other imaging technologies throughout San Diego County.

Treatment options

Scripps world-class hospitals, clinics, physician offices and sports and physical rehabilitation centers deliver advanced spinal care. Treatments for the neck and back include non-surgical and surgical approaches for spinal decompression, spinal stabilization, as well as pain reduction and elimination:

Spine surgery options

  • Anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF), in which a damaged disc is removed through an incision in the front of the patient’s neck, replaced with a bone graft and stabilized with metal plate and screws
  • Anterior lumbar interbody fusion (ALIF), in which a damaged disc in the lower back is removed through an incision in the patient’s abdomen and replaced with a plastic spacer or metal cage, as well as a bone graft or morphogenic bone protein (BMP), before two vertebrae are stabilized with screws, plates and rods
  • Axial lumbar interbody fusion (XLIF), which is a minimally invasive surgery for spinal fusion in the lowest portion of the lower back (L4-L5 and L5-S1) and is performed through the side of the body
  • Artificial disc replacement, in which a damaged disc of the lumbar spine is removed and replaced with an artificial mechanical disc with the goal of restoring range of motion between two vertebrae
  • Discectomy, in which surgeons remove all or part of a damaged disc by accessing the spine through an incision in the patient’s back
  • Foraminotomy, in which spinal bone is shaved or removed to widen the area through which nerve roots pass to exit the spinal canal
  • Kyphoplasty/vertebroplasty, which uses a balloon-like device that is inserted into the spine and inflated to open up space that is filled with bone cement to relieve nerve compression
  • Laminoplasty, which involves an incision in the back of the neck to make cuts in lamina bone and insert small bone grafts that are stabilized with screws to open up space for the spinal cord and compressed nerves
  • Laminectomy, in which a part or all of a lamina bone is removed to allow more space for compressed spinal nerves
  • Microdiscectomy, which is a minimally invasive surgery involving removal through a small incision of the herniated portion of a disc
  • Microlaminectomy, which is a minimally invasive surgery to remove, through a small incision, bone spurs that are pressing on spinal nerves
  • Minimally invasive lumbar decompression (MILD), in which surgeons make a small incision to remove portions of tissue causing the compression of spinal nerves
  • Minimally invasive spinal fusion, which are performed through smaller incisions using an operating microscope, X-ray guidance and special surgical instruments
  • Robotic spine surgery, which aids surgeons with 3D software modeling, planning and guided placement of surgical implants 

Advances in care for back and spinal surgery

Scripps orthopedic doctors participate in clinical trials for new spinal devices and procedures to help patients with disc degeneration. These national clinical trials are exclusive locally to Scripps and help improve treatments that can include use of artificial discs, bone morphogenic proteins (BMP) and other biologics for spinal fusion.

Because not all injuries or conditions require surgery, Scripps doctors and clinicians work with patients to help them understand how lifestyle changes and non-invasive approaches such as physical therapy may be the right treatment course for their conditions, including chronic back or neck pain. Personalized patient plans are developed after a comprehensive diagnosis and review of treatment options that may also involve collaboration from Scripps neurologists and neurosurgeons.

Scripps physical therapists and supporting teams across San Diego help patients at every stage of orthopedic care.

San Diego’s best team for spine treatment

Scripps-affiliated physicians are team orthopedic surgeons for the San Diego State University Aztecs. Caring for elite athletes gives our physicians the ability to apply the highest levels of treatment to everyday patients or amateur and weekend sports enthusiasts suffering from back pain conditions.

Helping you get back in the game is our goal at every Scripps orthopedic physician office, imaging center, clinic, hospital and sports and physical therapy center.

Treating a range of neck and back conditions

Various types of back injuries, neck and spine conditions can be treated at Scripps, including:

  • Ankylosing spondylitis, which is a chronic inflammatory condition that can affect the lower spine and ultimately result in non-surgical fusion of vertebrae.
  • Back pain, which can be chronic or acute and is caused by rheumatoid arthritis, muscle strains, traumatic injury or degeneration of intervertebral discs, spinal stenosis and other conditions, such as compression fractures or ligament tears
  • Cauda equine syndrome, which is a rare disorder that affects the bundle of nerve roots in the lower back and can impair bladder and bowel control
  • Cervical radiculopathy (pinched nerve), which can occur when intervertebral discs in the neck lose their height and vertebrae grow bone spurs to compensate
  • Cervical spondylosis, also referred to as arthritis in the neck, which can be caused by disc degeneration, bone spur growth and loss of cartilage, due to aging
  • Cervical spondylotic myelopathy, also called spinal cord compression, which can be caused by an injury or prolonged wear and tear of spinal discs in the neck
  • Chordoma, which is a slow-growing tumor that can be found in the spine and base of the skull
  • Degenerative disc disease, which is progressive deterioration of intervertebral discs caused by wear and tear that accompanies aging
  • Fractures of the spine, including the cervical (neck), thoracic (middle back) and lumbar (lower back) regions
  • Herniated disc (ruptured or bulging disc) in which one of the intervertebral discs weakens and can bulge, putting pressure on nerves that leads to pain and/or numbness and weakness experienced in the neck, back, legs, feet, arms and fingers
  • Kyphosis, which is a forward curvature of the spine that can produce a bowed back
  • Myelopathy, which is damage to the spinal cord in the neck region of the spine caused by a herniated intervertebral disc, bone spurs, dislocation, fracture, injury or autoimmune disease
  • Neck sprain (“stinger”) in which the stretching of a nerve root or brachial plexus can occur from trauma caused by a football tackle involving the player’s head and neck
  • Osteoarthritis, which is the most common type of arthritis and includes degeneration of cartilage in the lower back
  • Sciatica, in which pain, weakness or numbing sensations are experienced in the buttocks, hip and legs and feet, due to nerve compression along the lumbar spine
  • Scoliosis, which is a sideway curvature of the spine that can affect children and adolescents but can also be suffered by adults as “de novo” degenerative scoliosis, due to disc degeneration
  • Spondylosis, which is caused by chronic wear on the cervical spine and associated with osteoarthritis
  • Spondyloslisthesis (spondolysis), in which is the slippage out of alignment of a spinal vertebra from the vertebra below it, due to a fracture, abnormal wear from arthritis, bone disease or injury
  • Stenosis, which is a narrowing of the spinal column that can result in pressure on the spinal nerves, causing pain
  • Spinal cord tumors, which can be benign or malignant, interfering with spinal and bodily functions

Sports and physical therapy for neck and back pain

Scripps offers several sports and physical therapy options in San Diego with facilities in North County, South Bay, Central San Diego and La Jolla. Sports and physical therapy services are provided at more than half a dozen locations by a team of experts using the latest techniques and technologies to help patients regain strength and mobility to get back in the game.

Non-surgical treatment

  • Medications, including prescriptions to address muscles spasms, chronic neck pain, back pain or swelling
  • Physical therapy and conditioning, which is personalized to provide conservative treatment and prevention of neck or back problems
  • Injections, which can include anti-inflammatory drugs delivered to the spinal area and include facet joint injections, nerve root blocks, sacroiliac (SI) joint injections and coccyx (tailbone) injections

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