Anterior spinal fusion overview

Anterior spinal fusion is a surgical procedure that accesses the spine through an incision in the front of the body (usually on one side of the abdomen) and uses bone grafts and implants to stabilize a weakened spine by fusing two or more vertebrae together. Ideally, this traditional open spine surgery will immobilize the damaged region of the spine, which eliminates mechanical pain, releases neural compression and tightens the anterior longitudinal ligament. Read on to learn more about the outcome of undergoing an anterior spinal fusion as well as the minimally invasive alternatives that are available.

Goals of anterior spinal fusion

Once the surgeon has gained access to the spine, either through the abdomen (anterior lumbar interbody fusion) or through the neck (anterior cervical spine fusion), he or she will perform a discectomy to remove part or all of the deteriorated spinal disc that has collapsed, depending on the severity of your condition.

Next, bone grafts or implants containing small bone fragments will be inserted into the disc space. This segment of the spine is further stabilized with screws and rods that fasten together adjacent pedicles — a small bony projection that connects the lamina to the vertebral body to form a vertebral arch. The primary goals of anterior spinal fusion include:

  • Immobilization. Over time, the bone graft and the existing vertebrae should grow together and fuse into one solid piece of bone that does not have the flexibility of spinal segments that still contain cartilaginous discs. This immobilization should eliminate any pain that was previously caused by movement.
  • Decompression. The spinal fusion should also eliminate nerve compression that is caused by a ruptured, bulging or otherwise deformed disc that is irritating or pinching spinal nerves. Not only will the offending disc be removed, but the disc space and the foramen will be widened, thereby giving the spinal nerves more room as they exit the spinal cord.

Recovering from an anterior spinal fusion

Recovering from a traditional fusion of the spine is a lengthy process. Since it is a highly invasive operation, muscles, tendons and ligaments are often cut and a large incision that is 6 to 8 inches in length is used so that the surgeon can have full access to the spine. Therefore, the healing process is especially difficult. Additionally, the implants that are used in a traditional spinal fusion can break or shift, so frequent X-rays will follow your surgery. Intense physical rehabilitation will be needed, both so your body can heal and so that you can learn to move without a full range of spinal flexibility.

Minimally invasive alternatives to anterior spinal fusion

If you are one of the millions of people seeking relief from neck or back pain, but you feel the drawbacks of a traditional spinal fusion outweigh its potential benefits, contact Laser Spine Institute today. We are waiting to talk to you about our minimally invasive procedures that offer a safer and effective alternative to traditional open spine surgery.^

Laser Spine Institute is the leader in minimally invasive spine surgery and has helped more than 75,000 patients find relief from chronic neck or back pain. To find out if you are a potential candidate for our minimally invasive alternative to anterior spinal fusion, reach out to our dedicated team and ask for a free MRI review.* We can help you recapture your quality of life from your debilitating spine condition.