Spondylolisthesis is a condition of the spine in which one vertebral body has slipped forwards or backwards on the vertebral body below. There are several different types of spondylolisthesis. Sometimes the slip is caused by abnormalities of the bone – this type of slip often causes problems during childhood or young adulthood. More commonly, the slip is a result of a degenerative process that occurs as we age.
Often, the slip doesn’t cause problems until there is a narrowing of the space available for the nerve roots, resulting in a condition known as spinal stenosis. Spinal stenosis causes back pain and/or leg pain, and limits the ability to walk. Treatment for spondylolisthesis is based on the severity of the patient’s symptoms, as well as the degree and extent of slippage.
For the child or young adult with spondylolisthesis associated back pain, activity modification is recommended. If pain does not subside with activity modification, a brace may be recommended and should be worn full-time for at least 3-6 months.
For the adult patient, pain is generally the major complaint, and may limit the ability of the individual to walk distances. Patients may be referred for physical therapy, prescribed medication, or be referred for an epidural steroid injection.
For the pediatric patient with spondylolisthesis that has failed to respond to nonsurgical approaches, either a repair of the bone or a fusion procedure is recommended. Most patients experience pain relief and are able to return to most activity following these procedures.
In the adult patient presenting with degenerative spondylolisthesis in which spinal stenosis is present, a decompression procedure, or laminectomy, is done. This is combined with a spinal fusion procedure to prevent recurrence of symptoms due to the unstable spinal segment.
Spondylolisthesis is a relatively common problem and is often effectively treated with nonsurgical approaches. When surgery is indicated, it is addressed to the specific nature of the disorder and most patients obtain good to excellent outcomes. The physicians and surgeons at Florida Spine Specialists are experts in treating spondylolisthesis and spinal stenosis. Our priority is providing the best care for our patients and treatment plans are tailored to each individual’s specific problems and needs.