Posterolateral fusion is a lumbar (lower back) spine surgery that is used to treat certain spine conditions, such as degenerative disc disease, spondylolisthesis and spinal stenosis. The procedure is very similar to a posterior lumbar interbody fusion (PLIF) because they are both lumbar spinal fusions that access the spine through the back and help treat degenerative spine conditions.
During a posterolateral spinal fusion, a bone graft is fused around a damaged disc, permanently attaching the two vertebrae surrounding the disc. Because this procedure does not remove the damaged disc, the disc is encouraged to grow back with the aid of the bone grafts holding the spine in alignment and stabilizing the vertebrae while the disc naturally regenerates.
Though this procedure promotes great possible benefits, such as disc regrowth, the possible risks of a failed surgery should also be considered before moving forward with the procedure. It is important for patients to make a fully informed decision when it comes to spine surgery and overall spine health.
What to expect during posterolateral fusion
Before moving forward with a surgical procedure, you should always research the steps involved in the procedure to make sure you are comfortable. Below is a list of the steps involved in posterolateral fusion:
- Bone is harvested, usually from the pelvis, or a bone substitute is acquired to use as a bone graft.
- A 3- to 6-inch incision is made in the middle of the lower back.
- Muscles, ligaments and tendons are moved, and the laminae (vertebral archway) are removed to allow access to the nerve roots; facet joints may also be trimmed to give nerve roots more space.
- The bone graft is implanted, and then muscles and ligaments are reattached to help keep the graft secure.
- Metal screws and rods are attached to the bone graft to provide stability while the bone graft grows and the vertebrae fuse.
The risks of infection and excessive blood loss, as well as postoperative complications, are increased through the use of a large incision and the detachment and reattachment of the muscles surrounding the spine. These can all lead to excessive scar tissue, which can develop internally and prevent the fusion from being successful, resulting in failed back surgery syndrome.
Minimally invasive alternatives to posterolateral fusion
A traditional lumbar fusion is not your only option for pain relief after months of conservative treatment fail. At Laser Spine Institute, we offer several types of minimally invasive lumbar stabilization procedures that help relieve pressure on an impacted nerve root and stabilize the spine.
Our minimally invasive lumbar fusion is performed through a small incision and does not require the surrounding muscles to be detached or reattached, thus reducing the risk of infection and postoperative complications. Once the spine is accessed, the damaged disc is replaced with an artificial disc to maintain the right spacing and flexibility of the spine. The artificial disc is a more natural way to stabilize the spine, as opposed to the metal fusion used during traditional lumbar fusion.
For more information about the safer, effective minimally invasive alternatives to traditional lumbar fusion, please contact Laser Spine Institute today.