Arthrodesis surgery — when is it necessary for the spine?

Arthrodesis surgery is a type of procedure used to stabilize joints in the body, including the fingers, the ankles and the spinal joints (facet joints) through fusion. As the body ages, the cartilage that lines the joints wears away. This lack of cartilage leaves the adjacent bones with no separation, causing discomfort and inflammation.

In the spine, as the cartilage in the facet joints wears away, it also can lead to the development of spinal bone spurs and potential spinal nerve compression. Additionally, the spinal discs that cushion the vertebrae can lose elasticity and begin to break down, leading to a condition called degenerative disc disease. These conditions can cause painful symptoms, but they can often be treated with conservative options like medication and physical therapy that provide enough relief to engage in normal activities. Surgery, especially arthrodesis, is typically considered in more severe cases where there is chronic pain and spinal instability.

Spinal conditions that produce nerve compression

With age, the parts of the spine begin to degenerate. Spinal discs lose water content, height and elasticity, cartilage on joints wears away, osteophytes (bone spurs) develop, and ligaments tighten. Due to the instability and narrowing that results from these degenerative changes, the spinal nerves become exposed to potential compression over time. Arthrodesis surgery — spinal fusion — is one solution if shooting pain, tingling, numbness or muscle weakness related to nerve compression can’t be managed using nonsurgical treatment. After several weeks or months, if symptoms persist, your doctor might recommend a consultation with a surgeon to consider your surgical options.

Minimally invasive stabilization as an alternative to traditional arthrodesis

Spinal arthrodesis surgery is designed to stabilize an unstable section of the spine. A vertebral segment is fused with bone graft material and metal implants, reducing the chance for nerve compression in that area of the spine as well as other issues. Traditionally, spinal arthrodesis surgery has involved a large incision to access the area, requiring overnight hospitalization and a long recovery period.

The minimally invasive stabilization procedures performed at Laser Spine Institute are an alternative to traditional open spine arthrodesis surgery. By using a smaller incision and other muscle-sparing techniques to access the spine, our surgeons are able to perform minimally invasive fusion on an outpatient basis. The result is less risk of complication and a shorter recovery time compared to traditional fusion procedures.^

To learn more about our minimally invasive stabilization procedures, contact Laser Spine Institute today. We offer a no-cost MRI review* to determine if you may be a candidate for our minimally invasive spine surgery.