Components of traditional open back fusion — what you should know

Back fusion, also called spinal fusion, is a type of surgery designed to minimize pain in the neck or back. People with spine conditions like herniated discs, degenerative disc disease or spinal arthritis who are experiencing spinal instability and who have exhausted conservative treatments may be recommended to undergo a spinal fusion.

There are two primary goals of a back fusion. The first goal is to relieve painful nerve compression by removing a portion of the spinal anatomy that is the cause. The second goal is to restore a healthy structure to the spine by permanently fusing two or more vertebrae together.

Traditional open back fusion surgery

Traditional open back fusion surgery is a highly invasive procedure that can involve a long and difficult recovery. One of the main components of a traditional open back fusion procedure is the implantation of bone graft material and stabilizing implants. During the surgery, a damaged disc at the affected level of the spine is removed to make room for the graft, which can be taken from the patient’s own body during a procedure prior to surgery.

The purpose of the bone graft is to facilitate the growth of new bone, which will help the two adjacent vertebrae on either side of the graft to fuse into one solid segment of bone. The bone graft is often broken up into small pieces and contained within a small titanium cage that is held in place with rods and screws. One risk of traditional open back fusion is failed back surgery syndrome, including the risk that a patient’s body will reject implanted objects.

Elective spinal fusion for degenerative spine conditions is usually recommended after conservative options like physical therapy or epidural steroid injections have been exhausted. If you’ve been recommended to undergo a spinal fusion procedure but have concerns about the risks and difficulties involved, it’s important to understand that there are alternatives to traditional open spine procedures.

Minimally invasive alternatives to open back surgery

At Laser Spine Institute, we specialize in a range of minimally invasive spine surgery for serious spine conditions. Since 2005 we’ve helped more than 75,000 patients find relief from neck or back pain. As an alternative to traditional open spinal fusion, our surgeons perform minimally invasive stabilization procedures that offer many benefits to patients, including:

  • Outpatient procedure
  • No lengthy recovery^
  • Reduced risk of infection and other complications^
  • Small incision
  • Muscle-sparing techniques

Many of our patients are up and walking within a few hours after surgery and 83 percent of our minimally invasive stabilization patients return to their daily activities within three months.^ Contact a member of our team today to learn more.

We are happy to provide a free MRI review* to determine if you are a potential candidate for one of our minimally invasive procedures.