A surgical technique used to bind together (or fuse) one or more vertebrae, to eliminate movement between them. Bone grafts are constructed and implanted during the procedure to promote a cohesive growth.
What is Spinal Fusion?
- Resolves pain from a variety of spinal conditions that have failed to relieve after attempting conservative treatments.
- Decompresses a pinched spinal nerve and/or the spinal cord. Removes herniated disc and bone spurs (if applicable), and replaces disc with mechanical cage and bone graft for vertebrae to fuse.
- Procedure is minimally-invasive.
Spinal fusion is a procedure that relieves the compression put on the spinal cord or one or more spinal nerves. The procedure involves accessing the vertebral space through the back and removes the problem disc and any bone spurs, replaces the disc with a bone graft, and conjoins the vertebrae to stop motion between them.
The procedure may alleviate the chronic pain caused by many spinal conditions. Such conditions may cause spine instability and a variety of other ailments. Pain is experienced once the spinal cord and/or spinal nerves are compressed.
Some symptoms that spinal fusion may lessen include: chronic or severe pain that is either sharp, dull, radiating, or throbbing, loss of motor functions, numbness or weakness in the extremities, difficulty walking, sitting, or standing straight, and sciatica. With spinal fusion, removing the cause of nerve compression and eliminating the motion between vertebrae helps diminish pain.
Nerve compression may be caused by many ailments related to spinal disease. For example, a herniated or bulging disc is common among patients suffering from a number of spinal conditions. Herniated or bulging discs occur when the inner cushioning of a vertebral disc bulges or seeps out of the outer durable exterior and compresses nerves.
Another ailment is bone spurs, or calcified bone growths that often develop in degenerated discs and vertebrae. Lastly, spinal stenosis, which is a narrowing spinal canal, is also commonly caused by spinal conditions.
What does it treat?
- Degenerative disc disease
- Herniated or bulging discs
- Spinal stenosis
- Spinal infection
- Spinal tumors
- Complications from herniated or bulging discs and degenerative disc disease
- Bone spurs
- Calcified ligaments
Who are good candidates?
Candidates for spinal fusion may have varying spinal conditions and symptoms. Ideal candidates for spinal fusion, however, should have one or more of the following symptoms:
- Chronic pain in the back or lower back that is either dull, deep, radiating, shooting, throbbing, or sharp
- Sciatica pain that radiates from the back down to the buttocks, thighs, calves, feet, or toes
- Weakness or numbing in the lower extremities
- Trouble standing, walking, or sitting due to stiffness or extreme pain
- History of attempting conservative methods of treatment that was unsuccessful in healing the spinal condition and helping the pain.
Ideal candidates are also aware of any physical rehabilitation that may be necessary for recovery and are optimistic towards pain management and improvement.
What is the procedure like?
Patients will be under general anesthesia during the procedure, which takes anywhere from 1 to 3 hours to complete, depending on complexity.
The following are the general steps of the spinal fusion procedure:
- The procedure begins by prepping the area on the back for the incision. If the patient prefers the bone graft to be of their own bone, then the hip area will be prepped for a small bone extraction.
- After making a small incision, the tissues and muscles of the back are separated so the affected disc is exposed.
- The vertebral disc and any possible bone spurs or calcified ligaments are then removed. The bone graft extraction will now occur, if applicable.
- The bone is then inserted into the space where the disc was. A metal plate with rods or screws may be attached to either end of the vertebrae for support and aiding in fusion.
- The surgeon then close the incision(s) with sutures and the procedure ends.