Arthrodesis is the surgical fusion of two bones in order to alleviate pain and provide additional stability to the joint. This treatment is particularly common in the spine and can be an effective treatment for patients experiencing a spine fracture, severe osteoarthritis, advanced spondylolisthesis and other degenerative spine conditions. However, while this treatment can provide the patient with meaningful pain relief, it is almost always only considered when all other conservative, non-surgical treatments have been attempted because there are a number of potential risks associated with arthrodesis.

Spine fusion

Arthrodesis, or artificial ankylosis, is designed to completely fuse two joint surfaces together. As a result of this procedure, the patient loses flexibility at the joint, but also stabilizes the deteriorated joint. In regards to the spine, arthrodesis is effective when a facet joint that connects adjacent vertebrae has become injured and spinal misalignment is resulting in chronic neck or back pain.

The procedure and risks

During this procedure, a surgeon will access the degenerated portion of the spine, either through an anterior or posterior angle, and carefully insert a bone graft or synthetic bone and implants to align the spine. The ultimate goal of this procedure is to remove the source of painful nerve compression in the spinal canal, ensure that the spine is properly aligned, and allow the vertebrae to grow together over time, thus stabilizing the segment.

However, as with any major surgery, there are a number of notable risks to consider before an open spine arthrodesis is attempted, such as:

  • The prevalence of Failed Back Surgery Syndrome (FBSS)
  • Chance for postoperative complications (infection, hemorrhaging, etc.)
  • Pain transfer to a different level of the spine
  • Several months of recovery and rehabilitation
  • Hospitalization

Learn more

If you have chronic neck or back pain and are considering arthrodesis, contact Laser Spine Institute to learn whether you may be a candidate for one of our minimally invasive, outpatient alternatives. We offer multiple minimally invasive stabilization (MIS) procedures that accomplish the same goals as a traditional open spine arthrodesis, but with small incisions and avoidance of muscle tearing and scar tissue. We can review your MRI to determine your candidacy for one of our state of the art procedures.