Lumbar fusion is major surgery used to treat the symptoms associated with nerve compression in the lower back.
Spinal nerve compression can be caused by many different conditions, like a herniated disc or an arthritic bone spur, that are usually related to the natural aging process. The lumbar — or lower spine — region is especially vulnerable to this kind of wear and tear because it must be strong enough to support the upper body but flexible enough for everyday movement.
Although lumbar fusion is the most common traditional spinal fusion surgery, it normally will not be considered until a patient has undergone weeks or months of conservative treatment. If options like physical therapy, pain medication or exercise prove ineffective in treating lower back pain or radiating symptoms, a physician may suggest a traditional open back surgery like fusion as an option.
Lumbar fusion procedure overview
Lumbar fusion involves the removal of a large portion of the bone, disc material, ligaments, cartilage or tendons are contributing to nerve root irritation in the lower back. Then, the vertebrae within the damaged area are connected, or fused, using hardware like metal screws, metal plates and bone grafts.
Depending on the location of the affected nerve root, the surgeon will access the spine from the abdomen (anterior lumbar interbody fusion), the side of the body (lateral lumbar interbody fusion), or the back (posterior lumbar interbody fusion).
Recovery from lumbar fusion can potentially take a year or more. This is because the large incisions needed to access the spine also sever supporting muscles, leading to excessive scarring and an often difficult rehabilitation period.
There are certain factors that can make a lumbar fusion even riskier. The chance of a positive surgical outcome is lower when the patient:
• Is a smoker
• Has diabetes
• Is overweight
• Has osteoporosis
• Has received radiation treatment in the lower back
Minimally invasive lumbar fusion alternatives
Laser Spine Institute is the leader in minimally invasive spine surgery, offering patients an alternative to traditional open lumbar fusion. Our surgeons perform minimally invasive procedures that have a shorter recovery time^ and lower risk of complication than traditional open neck or back surgery. As an alternative to fusion procedures, we offer minimally invasive stabilization surgeries that provide the benefits of traditional fusion but are performed with smaller incisions on an outpatient basis, reducing the risks associated with traditional fusion.
To see if you are a candidate for our procedures, reach out to us today for a no-cost MRI review.*