Why Is Spinal Fusion Used?
Spinal fusion is an effective treatment for painful disorders of the spine, especially those that you’re your hurt with every movement. This surgical procedure involves joining two or more vertebrae together permanently, creating one solid bone with no space between them. Although it’s not always the first treatment recommended, it permanently resolves some causes of back pain.
Spinal surgeons use this procedure to eliminate any flexibility or motion at a painful vertebral segment. With no mobility between the vertebrae, there are no conditions that can cause you pain in the affected joint. Spinal fusion surgery relieves the symptoms of a wide range of back problems, including:
- Degenerative disc disease in your lower back
- Spinal weakness or instability
- Spinal repair after tumors have been removed
- Kyphosis of the middle spine
- Spinal stenosis in your lower back
- Scoliosis or curvature of the spine
- Fractured vertebra that causes spinal instability
- A herniated disc in your mid-back
- Tingling or numbness in one or both legs
- Sharp or severe pain in your lower back, buttocks or legs
Any one of these signs require immediate attention by an experienced spine doctor. You can find a world-renowned spine surgeon at NU-Spine: The Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery Institute in Edison, New Jersey. Dr. Branko Skovrlj uses a combination of cutting-edge procedures and latest technology to diagnose and treat a wide range of spinal conditions and diseases.
How Does My Doctor Decide on a Spinal Fusion?
Before recommending spinal fusion surgery, your spinal doctor first tries some non-surgical treatments, including pain medication, physical therapy, stretching exercises and steroid injections. If they work, you don’t need more invasive procedures. If these fail to deliver sufficient pain relief, Dr. Skovrlj can perform this spinal procedure.
There’s a variety of advanced techniques that an expert spine surgeon can choose from once he’s committed to the surgery, including:
- Transforaminal Lumbar Interbody Fusion (TLIF)
- XLIF/X-LIF eXtreme lateral interbody fusion
The technique he chooses depends on the location of the affected vertebra, the condition of the surrounding vertebrae, and your overall health. Sometimes, your surgeon has to combine procedures, performing one before attempting the spinal fusion procedure. These complementary procedures include:
How Is Spinal Fusion Completed?
After reaching a diagnosis that requires spinal fusion, your doctor explains how he’s going to eliminate motion between vertebrae to reduce the pain in your back. The procedure typically involves a series of steps, such as:
- This surgical procedure requires you to go under general anesthesia. That means you need to spend at least one night in the hospital.
- The incision depends on the location of the affected segment of the spine. The incisions can be on the side of your spine, on your abdomen, in your throat, neck or back, directly over your spine. For an anterior lumbar fusion (ALIF) procedure, the surgeon approaches your spine through the abdomen, rather than through your lower back. ALIF surgery entails making an incision on the left side of the abdomen to reach your spine.
- Preparation of bone graft. The fusion requires a bone graft or a synthetic bone substitute to fit between the two or more vertebrae. Your doctor may harvest a bone from your pelvis or another part of your body. Donor banks are also available. If the bone graft comes from you, you likely need another incision to access that bone.
- Bone graft placement and fusion. Your doctor places the bone graft between affected vertebrae to join them permanently. Some procedures involve using a cage to hold the vertebrae and bone graft together.
- Internal fixation. After your surgeon places the graft, he may use plates, screws or rods to hold the graft in place until the fusion bond strengthens. This hardware stops any spinal movement between these vertebrae. The hardware speeds up the healing process and increases the success rate of the procedure.