Treating lumbar spinal stenosis with vertebral fusion

Spinal stenosis, or narrowing of the spinal canal, is most common in the lumbar (lower back) region. This is because the lower back bears much of the weight of the upper body.

As you age, the normal stress placed on the lumbar spine from daily activities — yard work, sitting hunched over your desk, playing sports — causes parts of the spine to wear down and compress. This compression can cause narrowing in the spinal canal where the nerves pass through to other parts of the body, sometimes resulting in painful symptoms.

These symptoms can usually be managed using conservative treatments like pain medication, physical therapy, exercise and lifestyle changes. However, about 10 percent of patients find themselves considering surgery — including a traditional open back lumbar spinal stenosis fusion — to alleviate chronic pain, tingling, numbness or muscle weakness.

When to consider lumbar spinal stenosis fusion

If chronic pain persists after several months of conservative treatment, your doctor may present surgery as an option. Sometimes the disc damage causing the stenosis is extreme enough to require full disc removal in order to relieve the compression. The resulting empty space will require bone grafts and hardware to fuse the vertebrae together and stabilize the spine. These fusion procedures are extremely invasive, requiring lengthy recovery periods.

Because of these downsides, many patients find the decision to undergo an open back fusion to treat lumbar stenosis a very difficult one. You and your doctor should only seriously consider one of these procedures when:

  • Symptoms become so debilitating that you can’t perform normal day-to-day activities
  • You have exhausted all of your conservative treatment options, including epidural steroid injections
  • Your ability to walk has become severely affected.
  • You have less control of bladder or bowel function — this could be a sign of a rare, but extremely serious, condition known as cauda equina syndrome, which usually requires immediate surgery.

A minimally invasive alternative to traditional open spine fusion

Before deciding to undergo open back lumbar spinal stenosis fusion surgery, consider the minimally invasive spine surgery available at Laser Spine Institute. The skilled surgeons at Laser Spine Institute perform minimally invasive stabilization procedures that are a safer and effective approach to fusions. These surgeries use a much smaller incision that require no hospital stay and carry a much shorter period of recuperation^ than traditional open back surgery.

Contact Laser Spine Institute to learn more and find out how our team of caring professionals can review your MRI.

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