Questions to Ask Before Spondylolisthesis Surgery

Two doctors performing spine surgery

It is important to prepare for spondylolisthesis surgery by asking physicians and surgeons the right kinds of questions before the procedure. The dedicated and caring surgical teams and pain management experts at Centers for Neurosurgery, Spine & Orthopedics (CNSO) in northern New Jersey are highly specialized in treating spondylolisthesis and other spinal and neurological conditions. Find out what to ask about spondylolisthesis procedures and a healthy recovery.

Ask About the Condition

Spondylolisthesis occurs when vertebrae along the spine come out of alignment by shifting forward or backward. The slips almost always result in spinal instability. This places excessive pressure on the vertebrae, nerves, and soft tissue below the site of dislocation.

If a neurosurgeon suspects a patient has spondylolisthesis, he or she will examine the person, checking for possible signs of the lower spine condition. The physician will check the patient’s posture, physical range of motion of the spine, spinal alignment, and ability to walk in a stable manner. The medical team will thoroughly review the patient’s motor skills and reflexes.

The examining physician also will be looking to see if the patient has:

  • Discomfort, cramps, weakness, or tingling sensations in the lower back or hamstrings
  • Poor coordination and limited range of motion
  • Soreness on the spine near the site of vertebra slippage
  • Poor reflexes

If one or a combination of these symptoms appears, the doctor will request medical images. This may include an X-ray with flexion and extension of the spine, computerized tomography (CT) scan, and/or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the spine to identify precisely where a possible slippage exists and the degree of vertebra dislocation.

Ask About Surgery

If a patient is diagnosed with spondylolisthesis, conservative treatments may be recommended for a period, such as anti-inflammatory medications, physical therapy, and supportive spine braces if it is minimal. If these methods are exhausted and the patient is still experiencing regular symptoms, the physician may recommend surgery.

At this point, it is important the patient asks what kind of surgery will be used to treat spondylolisthesis. Generally, two types of surgery are used concomitantly to treat this condition:


A laminectomy is to remove a portion of a vertebra (called a lamina) to give the compressed spinal nerves and vertebrae more space to function. This minimally invasive procedure is one of the most common back surgeries and is often necessary to access other areas of the spinal column.

Spinal Fusion

Spinal fusion surgery entails a laminectomy in addition to surgically restoring vertebrae alignment. This spine surgery is performed only in cases with significant spinal slippage and nerve compression. This also can be a minimally invasive operation.

Ask About Recovery

Another important question to clarify before spine deformity surgery pertains to recovery period. In many cases, it varies based on the following factors:

  • Degree of slippage
  • Location of the condition
  • Type of procedure conducted
  • Patient’s health history

The patient will require rest, medications, and physical therapy to properly heal and to heal as quickly as possible. The surgery can be a same day procedure or require only 1 to 2 overnight stays debending on the extent of the correction and the medical conditions of the patient prior to the surgery. The patient should be able to ambulate on the same day and certainly by the following day.

Ask About Success Rates

A patient also will want to ask about the probability that surgery will yield positive results.. Patients at Centers for Neurosurgery, Spine & Orthopedics report an 85 to 90% affectivity rate from the procedure. It is important to note each patient’s circumstances are unique, so the answer will vary based on several factors. According to Cleveland Clinic, 70 to 80% of people who have a laminectomy experience relief from back pain and other spondylolisthesis symptoms.

Learn More About Spondylolisthesis from CNSO

The caring and award-winning neurosurgeons, spine surgeons, pain management experts, and rehabilitation physicians including physical therapists at Centers for Neurosurgery, Spine & Orthopedics have been educated at top-tier medical institutions. The team at CNSO has had extensive experience diagnosing and treating patients in New Jersey with spondylolisthesis and other neurological conditions. To learn more about this condition, treatments, and other information, contact us today.

Centers for Neurosurgery Spine & Orthopedics