Anterior Spinal Fusion
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 (eliminating mechanical pain), release neural compression and tighten the anterior longitudinal ligament.
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 all or part of the deteriorated intervertebral disc that has collapsed. Next, bone grafts or implants containing morselized bone will be inserted into the intervertebral space. This segment of the spine is further stabilized with screws and rods that fasten adjacent pedicles (the bony “arms” of the vertebral arch) together. 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 neural compression that is caused by a ruptured, bulging or otherwise deformed disc that is irritating or impinging spinal nerves. Not only will the offending disc be removed, but the disc space and the foramen will be widened, thus giving the spinal nerves more room as they exit the spinal cord.
Recovering from spinal fusion
Recovering from traditional fusion of the spine is a lengthy process. Since it is a very invasive operation and muscles, tendons and ligaments are often cut so that the surgeon can have full access to the spine, the healing process is especially arduous. 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, outpatient procedures that utilize the latest technology. Request a review of your MRI or CT scan so that you can find out more about these effective alternatives to traditional open spine surgery.