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Spinal fusion is a specialized procedure that involves connecting two or more vertebrae together to form one solid bone. The surgery is done to eliminate movement between the two structures, thus relieving chronic back pain.
You may require spinal fusion if conservative treatments – such as medication, steroid injections, and physical therapy – have been ineffective.
It is a common, final solution for a number of conditions and diseases, including:
A spinal fusion can take several hours to complete. There are two primary approaches to the procedure: interbody and posterolateral.
Here’s what you need to know about your options:
Interbody fusion is a form of back surgery that is done to relieve symptoms associated with pinched nerves and damaged discs in the spine. Interbody fusion can be done anteriorly through the abdomen or posteriorly through the back. The goal of interbody fusion is to remove the damaged disc and replace it with a bone graft or an implant.
TLIF – Transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion: To perform this procedure, one of our surgeons will create a small incision in the back. Through that opening, we will remove certain bones and a portion of the facet joint to access the disc.
ALIF – Anterior lumbar interbody fusion: To perform this procedure, we have a vascular surgeon help to access the spine through a small incision in the front of your abdomen. Through that opening, we can directly visualize the damaged disc.
XLIF – Extreme lateral interbody fusion: To perform this procedure, one of our surgeons will create a small incision on the side of your abdomen. Through that opening, we can directly visualize the damaged disc.
From there, we will remove the damaged portion of the disc that is compressing nearby nerves, while preserving the outer wall. We will then place a bone graft or a spacer in the empty disc space. All interbody fusions require metal screws and rods to hold the vertebrae together from the back. Over time, your own bone will build up around these structures, fusing the bones together.
To begin the posterolateral fusion procedure, one of our spine surgeons will create a small incision in the lower back. Through that opening, we will move the surrounding muscles, ligaments, and tendons aside in order to access the levels of the spine that need to be fused.
Metal rods and screws are then placed to provide spinal stability while the bone graft is placed around the metal rods and screws. Your own bone will also grow in the area of this bone graft and the spine fuses together.
Initially, you will need to remain in the hospital for several days so that we can monitor your progress and ensure your safety. During this time, you will meet regularly with physical therapists who will teach you how to safely walk, sit, and get out of bed as you heal.
It can take a full six months to a year before you are completely healed from your procedure.
As you recover, you will need to commit to:
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