King of Saudi Arabia had his third spine surgery within a year

Oct 18 2011
Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a statement saying that King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud had spine surgery at King Abdulaziz Medical City in Riyadh, the capital, on Oct. 16. The procedure was Abdullah's third operation since November of 2010, according to Al Jazeera.

According to the Ministry, Abdullah's latest spine surgery was meant to "re-tighten the binding connector around the third vertebra," referring to a complication from an earlier operation to correct a herniated disc.

"The operation was successful," according to a statement provided to Al Jazeera.

The spinal column consists of the vertebrae, the facet joints and the intervertebral discs that cushion the spaces in between the bones. The discs include the outer annulus fibrosus and inner, gel-like nucleus pulposus. Together, these two layers help form a tunnel in which the spinal cord can run along the length of the back.

A herniated disc occurs when injury or age-related degeneration causes one of these gel-filled shock absorbers to rupture or bulge out, which can put pressure on the surrounding nerves. This condition can lead to local pain, muscle cramps, and feelings of pain or tingling that radiate out to any limbs below the site of the herniation. People experiencing pain should consult a physician if symptoms don't disappear after two weeks.

Conservative treatments for a herniated disc include chiropractic care and pain medications. However, a discectomy to remove part or all of a herniated disc may be needed in severe cases. This procedure is often followed by spinal fusion to connect the vertebrae on either side of an excised disc, which can be done with a bone graft or specially constructed cage made with rods and screws.

In late 2010, Abdullah, 86, flew to New York for two spine surgeries: one to remove a blood clot, another to correct a herniated disc. His latest operation was prompted by lower back pain.