Spinal fusion is a type of surgery used to treat severe degenerative spine conditions. Typically, these conditions have progressed to the point that the integrity of the spine is compromised, requiring the damaged disc in the spine to be removed and the spine to be stabilized, i.e. fused together in the area of weakness.
There are two main types of spinal fusion — traditional spinal fusion and minimally invasive stabilization. Traditional spinal fusion stabilizes a portion of the spine by connecting, or fusing, two or more vertebrae together — often at a point where diseased disc material, ligaments and bone material have been removed. A minimally invasive stabilization surgery adds stability to the spine by inserting an artificial disc into the empty space after a damaged disc is removed. This allows a more natural stability and range of motion to occur after surgery compared to a fusion involving metal screws and rods.
For example, during a traditional discectomy, surgeons will remove a damaged disc to release pressure on a pinched nerve root. Since the removal of a disc leaves an open space between two vertebrae, surgeons may perform spinal fusion to permanently connect the vertebrae and provide them with more stability. This type of fusion includes bone grafts and metal screws and rods to permanently fuse together the two vertebrae. A minimally invasive discectomy would remove the disc through a small incision and insert an artificial disc to provide stability and accurate spacing to the spine.
Benefits and risks of spinal fusion
Spinal fusion can be a very beneficial procedure used to treat several types of degenerative spine conditions that have not responded to months or years of conservative treatment. The most common spine conditions treated with spinal fusion include:
- Degenerative disc disease
- Spondylosis or osteoarthritis
- Herniated disc
- Spinal injuries, such as vertebral fracture
- Spinal tumors
While traditional spinal fusion offers possible pain relief from these conditions, it also offers an increased risk of infection and failed back surgery syndrome due to the highly invasive nature of the procedure. The large incision to access the spine requires the muscles around the spine to be detached and then later reattached. This invasive technique increases the risk of excessive scar tissue buildup, which can interfere with the fusion and ultimately lead to failed back surgery syndrome.
An alternative solution is to undergo minimally invasive spinal fusion (stabilization) at Laser Spine Institute. Our procedures are performed through a small, muscle-sparing incision that reduces the risk of infection and postoperative complications. Instead of using metal screws and rods to fuse the spine, our surgeons often stabilize the spine with an artificial disc and bone grafts (if necessary).
Take a moment to review some of the advantages of Laser Spine Institute’s minimally invasive surgery:
- Patient recommendation score of 97 out of 100^
- No lengthy recovery^
- Small incision
- Minimally invasive outpatient procedure
- Board-certified surgeons+
For more information about the minimally invasive stabilization surgery at Laser Spine Institute, please contact our team today.