Spinal fusion treatment: an overview

Your physician may have recommended spinal fusion treatment if you have been experiencing chronic neck or back pain, or any of the other numerous complications that can arise due to spinal deterioration or deformation. In most cases, such surgery should only be considered if conservative treatment measures such as physical therapy and corticosteroid injections have been exhausted without offering improvement in your quality of life. Patients considering their surgical options should make this important decision on an as informed a basis as possible. We hope the following information can help you work more closely with your doctor to make the best choice for you.

What conditions can spinal fusion treatment address?

If your physician has recommended spinal fusion, you are likely experiencing the debilitating effects of a degenerative spinal condition such as:

  • Osteoarthritis — joint inflammation caused by loss of protective cartilage
  • Spinal stenosis — narrowing of the spinal canal caused by conditions like herniated discs and bone spurs
  • Spondylolisthesis — slippage of a vertebra in the spine
  • Scoliosis — abnormal curvature of the spine
  • Degenerative disc disease — natural breakdown of the spinal discs that results in a loss of disc height

Each of these conditions can change the structure of the spine and cause severe pain, both issues, which can be addressed by restabilizing the spine in a spinal fusion procedure.

What does spinal fusion treatment involve?

Spinal fusion is performed with the goal of providing stability to the spine, and a procedure generally consists of introducing a bone graft between two vertebrae and encouraging them to fuse together by using hardware, such as screws and rods. When the surgery is complete, there is a long recovery period, which can vary in time from a few weeks to a year or more. In a successful surgery, the graft will take hold during this time, fusing the bones together into a more stable component, although generally with a reduced range of motion.

It’s important to note that there are several complications that can arise during and after open spinal fusion procedures. In addition to the usual surgical risks — like blood loss or infection — spinal fusion patients may have to cope with a clinical failure, where the surgery doesn’t relieve symptoms. Even with successful procedures, the flexibility of the affected area of the spine can be reduced, possibly leading to the adjacent sections compensating and deteriorating due to the added stress.

An outpatient alternative to traditional spinal fusion

Traditional open spine procedures were the default in the field of spine surgery for decades. However, due to advances in medical technology and procedure, you do have an alternative to a traditional spinal fusion. At Laser Spine Institute, we offer minimally invasive stabilization procedures that accomplish the same goals as a traditional spinal fusion, but use smaller incisions and muscle-sparing techniques. These procedures offer less risk of infection, less muscle tearing, and a shorter recovery period compared to traditional open spine surgery.^ Contact us today to learn more about the full range of minimally invasive spine surgery we offer, including minimally invasive stabilization.

A member of our caring and dedicated can help you receive a free MRI or CT scan review* to determine if you are a potential candidate for one of our procedures.