The Spine Center, located in Park Ridge and serving communities throughout Chicago, is dedicated to providing the best results possible for our patients. In medicine, no two situations are alike, even if both patients have the same condition. Every body is unique, and each medical occurrence has its own set of circumstances. As a result, we adopt a highly personalized approach to spine care. Reach out to us today to schedule an appointment or to get more information on how we can assist you with your situation.
How Spinal Fusion Works
A spinal fusion is a surgical procedure where two or more vertebrae are fused together. A fusion is a procedure where one bone heals to another. This is achieved using a variety of bones grafts, either from the patient or synthetically, from a lab, and instrumentation hardware to hold the bones together. Spinal fusions eliminate painful motion. If pain is due to a degenerative disc or instability, a fusion is intended to eliminate that pain.
The surgery is essentially a welding process involving placing bone or a bonelike substance within the gaps between two or more spinal vertebrae. The main concept is to gradually join two or more vertebrae to fuse or heal into a single, solid bone.
Lumbar Spinal fusion surgery is carried out to stop painful motion or to provide the spine with additional stability. While the bones recover, metal plates, screws, and rods are utilized to keep the vertebrae together as a single solid unit. it is not uncommon to remove bone spurs or disc material to take the pressure off nerves. This is also commonly preformed at the time of a spinal fusion.
Spinal Fusion Variations
Step one is to consult with us and then undergo any necessary diagnostics. After we identify the root cause of your symptoms, we will go over available treatment options. If it is determined that lumbar spinal fusion surgery is the best course, your surgeon will thoroughly explain the technique they plan to use. This could include:
- Posterior spinal fusion– This is a common type of spinal fusion surgery that is performed by making an incision in the back of the spine. This provides the surgeon with direct access to the area, while still allowing for minimally invasive techniques.
- Anterior spinal fusion– A three-to-five inch long incision is made in the abdominal area. The incision is typically located just above or to the side of the stomach.
- Lateral spinal fusion– This approach involves a very small cut which allows the surgeon to access your vertebrae from the side. This gives them access to the spine while avoiding major muscles in the back area.
Benefits of Spinal Fusion
Although techniques vary, all forms of spinal fusion have the same basic goal. The goal is to stabilize the spine to eliminate motion that can cause symptoms. The procedure relieves back pain, weakness, numbness, and other spinal problems by reducing pressure on nerve roots and the spinal cord. It may be recommended for patients with spinal damage from degenerative arthritis, damaged discs, spondylolisthesis, spinal stenosis, and more. Bone grafts or bone substitutes are critical to spine fusion success
As the bone heals, it fuses with the implanted material, restoring spinal support. Call The Spine Center at (847) 628-8147 for further information or to schedule an appointment.
What are the Risks of Spinal Fusion Surgery?
Like any surgical technique, lumbar spinal fusion surgery has pros and cons that are worth considering. Lumbar decompression and spinal fusion surgery involve a risk of complications that you must consider before the procedure. Fortunately, most difficulties occur infrequently. Please discuss for your specific risk profile with your surgeon. Known risks after spinal fusion surgery include:
- Excessive Blood Loss. Most surgical procedures result in some bleeding. Although it may occur, severe bleeding is often only a concern in operations involving many fusion levels.
- Infection at the Surgical Site. Even though they might happen after any operation, infections are rare. Antibiotics are given at regular intervals before and during the procedure. They help to reduce the chance of an infection forming at or close to the surgical site of lumbar spinal fusion.
- Nerve Damage. Nerve injury during spinal fusion surgery is a common worry for many people. However, despite this danger always being present, it is unlikely that a lasting nerve injury may result from spinal fusion surgery.
- Incomplete Healing. This surgical procedure can take up to 1 year to completely heal. In rare cases, incomplete healing can occur.
Conditions Treated Using Spinal Fusion Surgery
Despite being a popular procedure, not all forms of back pain can be relieved by spinal fusion. So when is spinal fusion necessary?
Spinal fusion is only suitable for a particular group of individuals. For example, you may need spinal fusion surgery if you have fractured (broken) bones after a traumatic accident, abnormal spine curvatures from diseases like scoliosis or kyphosis, or an unstable or weak spine resulting from tumors or infections. We also carry out these procedures on patients with degenerative disc disease, which causes mechanical back pain, or those with persistent chronic lower back discomfort in certain cases.
What is Involved in Spinal Fusion Surgery?
There are several methods involved in lumbar spinal fusion surgery, but typically they all involve: the addition of a bone substitute or bone graft to a spinal segment; inducing a biological reaction that causes the bone graft to grow between the two vertebral elements to create a bone fusion; then stopping motion at that joint segment with the boney fusion. This procedure can help eliminate pains associated with vertebral mobility. The intention is to fuse the vertebrae to stop the spine from moving abnormally.
Taking bone from the pelvis (hip) is much less common due to updated technologies including synthetic bone, demineralized bone, bone substitutes, and growth factors (such as BMP). Frequently, the vertebrae are connected using metal rods or screws. They will remain attached until new bone develops between them. Bone cages are frequently placed in the disc space.
Recovery after Spinal Fusion Surgery
After undergoing lumbar spinal fusion surgery, patients often wonder what to expect in terms of their recovery. You can anticipate having a tight and/or painful back immediately after lumbar spinal fusion surgery. In addition, early on, you may also find it difficult to stay upright for lengthy periods when sitting or standing, and you might need pain medication. These issues will gradually subside.
Many people are also worried about lumbar spinal fusion surgery recovery time. It can take roughly 3 to 6 weeks to resume activities. In addition, your back may need 6 months to a full year to recover completely as bone fusion healing typically takes 4-6 months for boney fusion to occur. In unusual cases, it can take a year.
Although there are few or no permanent restrictions after spinal fusion, it’s important to understand that every patient’s body reacts to surgery differently. Wearing a lumbar brace aid recovery in the first 6 weeks. Physical therapy is frequently employed to recondition the muscular support of the spine.
Depending on the physical demands of a patient’s job, they can expect to return to work within 1 to 2 months following their spinal fusion surgery. In other instances, it may take anywhere from 3 to 6 months. Always make sure to consult with your doctor to determine appropriate schedules for returning to work.
You can watch the lumbar spinal fusion surgery video below for more information about the procedure.