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Spinal Fusion

Spine Surgery Specialists Serving Orange County

What is Spinal Fusion?

Spinal fusion corrects neck or back pain by surgically fusing two or more vertebrae together using bone grafts and metal plates, rods, and/or screws to mimic the normal healing process of broken bones. It also prevents the stretching of nerves and surrounding ligaments and muscles. It is an option for patients when motion is the source of pain. In many cases, your spine surgeon will remove arthritic bone or any other structure that is putting pressure on spinal nerves, such as a herniated disc. This procedure is called a decompression, or laminectomy.

During spinal fusion, bone grafts or bone graft substitutes are added to the affected area of the spine to kickstart the biological response that causes the bone graft to grow between the vertebrae to create a bone fusion. This fusing should stop motion at the painful vertebral segment, which in turn should decrease pain generated from the joint and nerves. The bone graft may come from a bone bank, bone that is harvested from a donor or cadaver (allograft bone) or from your own body, typically from the iliac crest of the hip (autograft bone).

The bone graft does not form a fusion at the time of the surgery. Instead, the bone graft provides the foundation and environment to allow the body to grow new bone and fuse a section of the spine together. In many cases, metal plates, screws or rods are used to help hold the vertebrae together while the bone graft heals. This is called internal fixation or spinal fixation. It is very important that you follow your surgeon’s instructions after surgery regarding limitations to bending, twisting and lifting so nothing disrupts the fusing process.

What Does Spinal Fusion Treat?

Spinal fusion surgery (arthrodesis) is one of the most common procedures used to correct instability and/or pain in the neck or spine.

Spinal fusion and cervical fusion may help relieve the following spine and cervical conditions:

  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Herniated disc
  • Spondylolisthesis
  • Spinal stenosis
  • Scoliosis
  • Spinal fracture
  • Spinal infection (e.g., vertebral osteomyelitis)
  • Bone Tumor

Different Types of Spinal Fusion Approaches

Your spine surgeon will determine the best approach to use depending on the location of your spine disorder.

  • Anterior Approach: An incision is made from the front at the lower abdomen for a lumbar fusion or in the front of the neck for a cervical fusion.
  • Posterior Approach: The incision is made down the middle of the lower back, over the vertebrae to be fused. To see the vertebrae, the surgeon will pull back the muscles that surround the spine.
  • Lateral Approach: The incision is made from the side and centers the incision over the patient’s flank. With this approach, the surgeon can reach the vertebrae and intervertebral discs without moving the nerves or opening up muscles in the back.

About the Spinal Fusion Surgery Process

You will undergo spinal fusion while under general anesthesia, so you will be unconscious during the operation. The method your spinal doctor uses to access the vertebrae depends on the reason for your spinal fusion. Spinal fusion is typically an effective treatment for fractures, deformities or instabilities in the spine or neck. Fusion will take away some spinal flexibility, but most spinal fusions involve only two vertebral segments and do not limit motion very much. The majority of patients will not notice a decrease in range of motion. For the best results from spine fusion surgery, you will need to manage your pain level with pain medicine prescribed by your surgeon and follow your surgeon’s physical therapy and rehabilitation orders to restore function of the back.

Trust the Spine Surgeons at Newport Orthopedic Institute

Our board-certified, fellowship-trained Orange County spine surgeons are skilled at performing spinal fusion.

Do you need spinal fusion?
Call Newport Orthopedic Institute at (949) 722-7038.

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