Spinal fusion is a major surgery that’s used to treat chronic neck or back pain and also to help stabilize the spine after other surgical procedures. The purpose of spinal fusion, therefore, is sometimes twofold: (1) to reduce pain in the spine by limiting movement in damaged areas, and (2) to add more structural integrity to the spine after bone, disc material or other spinal elements have been removed.
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. For example, during a discectomy, surgeons might remove a herniated disc that is causing a patient extreme pain. Since the removal of a disc leaves an open space between two vertebrae, surgeons might perform spinal fusion to permanently connect the vertebrae and provide them with more stability. Or, during a laminectomy, surgeons might remove an entire lamina from a vertebra, which can leave the vertebra weakened. Spinal fusion can help strengthen the vertebra.
Spinal fusion also helps prevent movement in the spine, which in turn can alleviate pain caused by extreme cases of:
- Degenerative disc disease
- Spondylosis or osteoarthritis
- Herniated disc
- Spinal injuries, such as vertebral fracture
- Spinal tumors
Traditional spinal fusion generally is accomplished using bone grafts and stabilization with metal rods and screws. The bone grafts are taken either from another spot on the patient’s body (autogenous bone) or from a donor or cadaver (allograft bone). The massively invasive nature of traditional spinal fusion surgery and the unpredictability of the body’s acceptance of the bone graft contribute to an extremely long and potentially painful recuperation, as well as the possibility of spinal fusion failure.
Laser Spine Institute offers more effective, minimally invasive alternatives to traditional spinal fusion. Procedures such as laminotomy, foraminotomy and discectomy at Laser Spine Institute involve removing only small portions of tissue that are causing symptoms, eliminating the need for traditional open back surgery like spinal fusion. Contact Laser Spine Institute to learn how one of our minimally invasive, outpatient procedures can help you find relief from neck and back pain.