Spinal Fusion, also known as Arthrodesis, is a surgical procedure that’s used to correct problems with the vertebrae in your spine. It will consist of joining two or more vertebrae, depending on the location and severity of the injury. Essentially, it’s the welding of the bones so that they heal into a single bone, and it’s meant to reduce back pain that results from a traumatic injury or nerve pressure.
This kind of procedure is recommended only if your doctor can pinpoint the precise source of the pain. In order to do that, your doctor has to run imaging tests such as CT scans, MRI scans, or X-rays.
Spinal Fusion Advantages
This kind of procedure has a lot of benefits, including reducing the risk of many back diseases such as degenerative disc disease, scoliosis, fractured vertebrae, herniated disks, spondylolisthesis, spinal stenosis, infection, and even tumors.
Spinal fusion eliminates motion between vertebrae, and it also prevents stretching of nerves, ligaments, and muscles. This procedure is a common option when movement becomes painful for patients, or patients are experience instability as a result of arthritis, disease, injury, or normal aging.
Spinal Fusion Disadvantages
One of the downsides to spinal fusion is that it has the potential restrict spinal flexibility, but most of these procedures only deal with a small segment of the spine, which means motion won’t be severely limited.
Spinal Fusion Description
Spinal fusion surgery can be an open surgery or a laparoscopic surgery. The surgeon can also approach the spine from different angles, whether that’s the back, the neck or the abdomen, depending on the area that’s affected.
Spinal fusion itself consists of taking a piece of bone from other parts of the body and transplanting it between the vertebrae. The transplant can also be a donation. The use of screws, meshes or plates might be necessary to keep the bone transplant held to the spine.
The surgery requires the surgeon to perform a discectomy, that consists of removing a piece of the damaged or diseased disc. After that, the roof of the vertebra will need to be trimmed or removed, depending on the individual case, so that the pressure on the nerve can be relieved. Then, the bone graft will be placed between the vertebrae that needs the fusion and screws will be put in place. Rods are also used to connect the screws and provide stability while everything heals together properly.
Spinal Fusion Possible Complications
Complications associated with lumbar fusion include loss of sensation, infection, spinal nerve damage, bowel or bladder control problems, implant dislocation, blood clots in the legs, pain, and pseudarthrosis, which is when the bone fusion doesn’t heal, and a false joint grows in the area.
Complications are rare and will be less likely to occur when the patient chooses the right surgical team. A team that is experienced but also dedicated to a thorough diagnostic approach, will allow for less potential risks. Follow your surgeon’s guidance both before and after surgery to ensure the best possible chance of achieving a successful spinal fusion, devoid of complications.