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Neurosurgery Involving Conditions of the Spine

Intervertebral Disk Disease

The intervertebral disk acts as a shock absorber of the spinal column and is located between the vertebral bones, and under the spinal cord. Each intervertebral disk is a discoid structure that consists of an outer fibrous capsule called the annulus fibrosus and it houses in its center, a gelatinous substance called the nucleus pulposus. Intervertebral disk disease occurs when structures of the disk protrude, extrude, or push onto the spinal cord and/or nerve roots, resulting in pain and neurologic disability. Depending on the location, and extent of the compression, several approaches may be employed to decompress the spinal cord and nerve roots. These procedures include:

Ventral slot



Dorsal laminectomy

Lumbosacral decompression

Distraction / stabilization

Wobbler’s disease / Caudal cervical spondylomyelopathy

Large breed dogs such as Doberman Pinschers, Great Danes, and even German Shepherd dogs may suffer from compression of the lower neck, resulting in neurologic dysfunction and pain. The compression can arise from instability, enlargement of articular joint facets of the vertebrae, intervertebral disk degeneration and protrusion, or thickening of ligaments. An MRI of the neck is required to determine the underlying cause of instability and compression. Should instability due to dynamic movement of the neck be suspected, dynamic views during MRI can be performed. Based on that information the surgical approach can be planned.

Spinal instability

Several conditions of the spine such as atlantoaxial (AA) subluxation and hypoplastic articular facets may benefit from surgical stabilization procedures. A combination of survey radiographs, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and computed tomography (CT) are required to obtain appropriate information for surgical planning to fixate the instability and finally, a radiographs or CT is performed to confirm appropriate placement of implants.

Fracture fixation

Trauma can cause severe damage the vertebral bones and spinal cord. Survey radiographs, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and computed tomography (CT) are required to obtain appropriate information for surgical planning to fixate a spinal fracture. Post surgically, another CT would be performed to ensure that the reduction of the fracture and placement of surgical implants are appropriate.


Depending on the extent and location of tumors affecting the spinal cord, patients can be candidates for surgical removal. Such procedures are normally described as decompression and cytoreduction, meaning the goal of the surgery is to remove as much of the tumor as possible to reduce compression in order to prevent further decline and possibly even improve function. Tumor removal in surgery is usually incomplete and some tumor is usually left behind. Therefore, the goal of the surgery is also to obtain tissue for submission to a laboratory to identify the tumor. Once the tumor is identified, recommendations for oncologic treatment can be made by an oncologist. Tumors encountered affecting the spinal cord include meningioma and nerve sheath tumors.

Neurosurgery Involving Conditions of the Spine