Spinal fusion complications — pseudarthrosis

Before deciding to undergo a spinal fusion surgery to help relieve your chronic neck or back pain, you should research all possible risks associated with the surgery and compare these risks to the possible benefits. For many patients, spinal fusion surgery is considered a “last resort” option to treat the spine condition that is causing a decrease in their quality of life.

At Laser Spine Institute, we believe that every patient should be educated fully on the risks and benefits of each surgical procedure available to treat their spine condition. Our approach to spine care is to center our services around our patients. That means that you receive personalized time with one of our health care providers to discuss in detail the treatment options available to you and what each treatment option entails. Ultimately, you are the only one who can make the best decision for your needs. Our goal is to equip you with the right information so you can make an informed decision and move closer to finding a treatment for your chronic pain.

Pseudarthrosis — a risk of spinal fusion surgery

As with any surgery, spinal fusion does carry some risk factors. One possible risk of undergoing a traditional spinal fusion surgery is called Pseudarthrosis, which means that the stabilization bone did not fuse properly.

During a spinal fusion, a bone graft or implant is fused into the spine, between the two unstable vertebrae, to create instant stability and decompress the impacted nerve that is causing you pain. In some rare cases, the bone or implant may not fuse fully to the vertebrae, causing some restricted movement and sometimes pain. This is called Pseudarthrosis.

Pseudarthrosis risk factors

There are many reasons why vertebrae may not properly fuse together following a spinal fusion surgery. Generally speaking, the more invasive a surgery, the more risk complications can occur. At Laser Spine Institute, our minimally invasive spine fusion aims to reduce these risk factors by not disrupting the local blood vessels and muscles during our procedure. Unlike traditional open back spinal fusion, our minimally invasive spine fusion moves aside the surrounding muscles and tissue instead of tearing and cutting them to get to the spine. This results in less chance of surgical complications, lower infection rate (0.41 percent^ compared to a national average of up to 19 percent), and shorter recovery time.^

Sometimes the risk of Pseudarthrosis can be increased with certain factors controlled by the patient. These risk factors include:

  • Smoking — The chemicals in nicotine decrease circulation and stunt bone growth. Studies show that the rate of Pseudarthrosis in smokers is nearly twice as high as in non-smokers.
  • Obesity
  • Osteoporosis
  • Diabetes
  • Arthritis
  • Steroid use

Pseudarthrosis can be one of the more painful spinal fusion complications because it causes symptoms similar to a bone fracture and can lead to nerve compression. If this occurs, a second surgery may be necessary to correct the problem.

At Laser Spine Institute, we aim to reduce risk factors associated with spinal fusion surgeries by offering an effective, minimally invasive alternative to traditional open back spinal fusion surgery. If you are interested in learning more about this procedure or seeing if you are a candidate for one of our minimally invasive spine surgeries, please contact our Spine Care Consultants to schedule a review of your most recent MRI report.