Having difficulties in walking and severe back pain that radiates down to the legs may be a sign of Spondylolisthesis. Spondylolisthesis can occur in people of all ages, but this condition can be permanently treated by Oblique Lumbar Interbody Fusion (OLIF) surgical technique. The patients can get back on their feet within 12 – 24 hours after the surgery.

Spondylolisthesis is a painful spinal condition that causes severe pain just as much as it occurs in other spinal conditions. Both elderly and adolescents can experience the condition.

Patients with spondylolisthesis have primary symptoms that include pain when bending or arching their back, which radiates down to the legs, and experience numbness in one or both legs. Aside from these symptoms, spondylolisthesis can also cause tightness or stiffness in the lower back, especially in the hips and thighs. Moreover, additional symptoms include leg muscle weakness that causes difficulties in walking or inability to walk long distances. These symptoms will persist longer than 2 weeks until it becomes a torment that vastly impacts the patient’s daily life.

Dr. Chaiyos Chaichankul, a highly experienced specialist in Spine Surgery at Vejthani Hospital explained that Spondylolisthesis is caused by a rupture or severe damage of the spinal disc (inter-vertebral discs) that causes the fluid in the discs to leak or slip out of place and compresses the nerves. The spinal discs are located in between each vertebrae of the spinal cord. They are made up of jelly-like substances that works as shock absorbers to support the weight transmitted through the spine and helps it to move. The inter-vertebral discs can be easily damaged or torn when the spine is heavily used or injured.

 “There are two primary causes of spondylolisthesis. The first one usually occurs in elderly, often caused by degeneration of the spinal column in the joints and in the spinal discs that lead to unstable spine, resulting in the vertebrae to slip out of place and compress the nerves. The second one occurs in younger people generally caused by Spina Bifida, a spine condition that is apparent at birth or from severe spinal injury. However, lifestyle can also be a factor that causes spondylolisthesis. For instance, being overweight, regularly lifting heavy things, wrong sitting posture, sudden erratic movement, and playing extreme sports that directly affects the spine. These risk factors are the stimulators behind spondylolisthesis”, said Dr. Chaiyos. 

For the diagnosis and treatment of spondylolisthesis, the doctor will start from history taking to determine the cause, physical examination and order X-ray and MRI scans to examine the severity of the disease. If the condition is mild, the doctor will treat the patient by prescribing medication along with physiotherapy for around 6 – 8 consecutive weeks. However, if the symptoms do not improve or became severe to the extent where it is affecting the patient’s daily life, the doctor will recommend a disc replacement surgery. In case the patient has spine deformity or scoliosis, the doctor may consider performing the Oblique Lumbar Interbody Fusion (OLIF) which is a minimally invasive spinal fusion. The procedure consists of a small incision made on the side of the body to replace the damaged disc with an artificial disc and restore the spinal alignment and nerve compression with the lumbar fusion peek cages. This surgical technique results in small incisions and reduces the damage on the nearby tissues and muscles, reduces blood loss, and the risk of complications as well as nerve injury. In addition, it has lower risk of the occurrence of post-operative membrane in the nerve. The patient will be able to get back on their feet within 12 – 24 hours after the surgery and most importantly, the recovery period is only 1 night admission at the hospital. 

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