Awake Spinal Surgery

Spinal surgery without general anesthesia:

Although it is sometimes called “Awake” spine surgery, this is a misnomer since the surgery is performed under conscious sedation or twilight sleep.   Sedation is administered through the IV so patients can remain comfortable and pain free.  The level of sedation can be light or heavier depending on patient preference and medical history.  Sedation is different from General Anesthesia, which involves a breathing tube (intubation), a ventilator, and anesthetic gases.  Regardless of which way you decide upon with your anesthesiologist, you will not feel any pain at all.

man stretching out, with a thumbs up, recovering from orthopedic surgery

Often, we will use a nerve block or numbing medicine injection to facilitate pain control.  The specific type of nerve block will depend on your specific surgery and our goals.  You can discuss the specifics with your anesthesiologist.

These procedures require excellent communication between your surgeon and the anesthesiologist.  Fortunately, here at Trinity Anesthesia we have worked with our spine surgeons for many years and we developed these protocols in conjunction with our surgeons.  You can rest assured that everyone is on the same page and you will have the best of care.  We only work with the best of surgeons.  

Avoiding the use of general anesthesia in spine surgery has many known benefits! These benefits have been proven through studies.  

Patients receiving conscious sedation and/or nerve block (no General Anesthesia) can expect:

  • Less pain after the procedure!
  • Patient satisfaction is high
  • Lower chance of nausea or vomiting
  • Less harmful narcotics are needed 
  • Quicker recovery times
  • Patients can go home faster and return to activities/work faster
  • Less risk for post operative neurologic dysfunction, such as delirium

Overall, patients with more risk factors (elderly, cardiac and lung disease, diabetes, obesity, etc) have increased risks when undergoing General Anesthesia.  These patients would have the greatest of benefits to avoiding General Anesthesia.  General Anesthesia in these patients can result in prolonged hospital stays.  

If you are a patient interested in avoiding General Anesthesia for your upcoming spine surgery, please reach out to our offices for a free consultation with one of our physicians.

Avoiding general anesthesia is possible for microdiscectomy, laminectomy, lumbar fusions, TLIFs and other surgeries.


Here is some further reading in case you have more questions: