Back pain is an extremely common ailment affecting a significant population in the United States and all over the world. While exercise, rest, massage, and physical therapy should improve the majority of back pain cases, certain back problems require more drastic measures, such as spinal fusion. Spinal fusion surgery fuses two or more vertebrae together to prevent painful movement, as sometimes movement between vertebrae may cause extra pressure on the spine.
What Does Spinal Fusion Do?
If you’ve suffered from a significant spinal injury or fracture, or have an unstable spine due to scoliosis, a spinal infection, or spondylolisthesis, you may be a prime candidate for spinal fusion surgery. Spinal fusion is rarely performed on its own, since it can be a 3 or 4hour procedure. The surgeon often recommends this surgery with a foraminotomy or to treat spinal stenosis, as many conditions resulting in spinal instability may call for spinal fusion.
How Spinal Fusion Works
How the surgeon approaches the surgery depends on your choice of materials. You, your general practitioner, and your surgeon should work together to determine which kind of technique is optimal for your situation and will offer the fastest recovery time. One method involves fusing the vertebrae using a synthetic bone substitute or metal implant to fuse vertebrae together until the new bone can grow. Another method employs an allograft, or a bone bank, where bone is taken from the pelvic bone to create a bridge between injured bones until the new bone can grow in its place.
Spinal Fusion Surgery Types
There are several kinds of spinal fusion procedures, and you and your surgeon should work together to determine the best course of treatment for your individual case. Surgery types include:
- Anterior spinal fusion: This procedure goes in from the front and back
- Anterior lumbar interbody fusion: This procedure is done from the front, and removes a disc between vertebrae and inserting bone into the available space
- Posterolateral gutter fusion: Goes in through the back
- Posterior lumbar interbody fusion: Goes in through the back, removes the disc between two vertebrae and inserts bone into the available space.
Just like with any other major surgery, spinal fusion poses many potential risks, which are compounded by age, procedure type, overall health, and diagnosis. One risk to keep in mind is pain at the graft site due to swelling or soreness. The swelling or aching should pass as time goes on. Other notable risks include nerve injury, graft rejection, infection, fusion failure, and deep blood clots (which may result in pulmonary embolism).
Contact Us Today
It’s crucial to exhaust all other treatment alternatives before considering spinal fusion surgery. Although spinal fusion surgery may alleviate your pain and is a fairly common procedure, it is also extremely costly and offers no guarantee of treatment success.This means that you should always consider spinal fusion surgery a last resort, and consult extensively with specialists before making the decision. The Spine and Scoliosis Center is a top Florida spinal clinic. Call the Spine and Scoliosis Center at any of our Florida locations to schedule an appointment and learn more.