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Spinal Fusion

Spinal fusion is a procedure used to correct problems with the bones in the spine. These bones, although small, are essential to your health. A “welding” process is used to fuse vertebrae together to heal them back into a solid bone. Although this procedure is usually only recommended by your physician when they can determine the source, it can reduce a lot of pain in the spinal area.

Anatomy

Your spine is a very delicate part of your body, and spinal fusions can relieve pain that may be causing your back to ache. Your physician may recommend entering the spine from either the front (anterior approach) or back (posterior approach). There are several different techniques to fuse the spine, many that have been performed for decades.

Description

Spinal fusion eliminates motion between the vertebrae, preventing stretching of nerves. Since ligaments and muscles can also be stretched, they can create an arthritic type of pain. Since a tiny part of the spine is removed during spinal fusion, this can create a slight lack of motion. However, this is rare and usually only limits motion a small amount.

If there is accompanying leg pain, your physician may also perform a laminectomy or a decompression. Removal of diseased tissue and bone allows for the pain to become far less intense. Spinal fusions can also relieve the pressure being put on spinal nerves, improving your ability to perform daily activities with less pain.

Spinal Fusion

Symptoms

Spinal fusion relieves symptoms of back conditions and pain. These can include:

  • Spinal stenosis
  • Fracture
  • Tumor
  • Infection
  • Scoliosis
  • Degenerative disk disease
  • Spondylolisthesis

DIAGNOSIS

Your Florida Orthopaedic Institute physician will discuss your options with you about your pain to determine if spinal fusion is right for you. As with any surgical procedure, there are slight risks and complications involved, although these are very rare.

Your physician will evaluate your symptoms and may use imaging tests such as x-rays, CT scans, and MRI scans to get a more detailed look at the problem area. From there, they will determine if they can pinpoint a source. If they can, surgery may be recommended to correct the problem.

TREATMENT FOR SPINAL FUSION

Since spinal fusion is a surgical procedure, great care must be taken to treat the spine and ensure it heals properly. Your physician will discuss your options with you, but if they can pinpoint the source of pain, then surgery is an effective method for relief.

NONSURGICAL TREATMENT

Florida Orthopaedic Institute takes steps to ensure that they can provide patients with options before surgery is recommended. Your physician will discuss with you your symptoms and if any physical therapy or nonsurgical methods are available. If all nonsurgical option have been exhausted, spinal fusion may be recommended to alleviate pain and get you back on your feet.

Surgical Treatments

Spinal fusion uses a bone graft, a type of bone material, to promote the fusion. The bone graft allows for quicker healing of the vertebrae. All spinal fusions use some type of bone material to promote healing.

Another way to perform a spinal fusion is an allograft, which is a cadaver bone. These come from a bone bank and are less painful to use than to harvest a hip bone from the patient (an autograft). Other methods include:

  • Ceramics: Synthetic calcium/phosphate materials like autograft bone
  • Bone morphogenetic proteins (BMPs): Synthetic bone-forming proteins for a stronger fusion
  • Demineralized bone matrices (DBMs): Calcium removed from cadaver bone to help with bone healing

Due to technological advances, several artificial bone graft materials have also been developed and used during surgery. Your physician will discuss with you the best option for your procedure.

The Next Step

Florida Orthopaedic Institute physicians consistently keep up to date with the latest spinal procedures and research. Your physician will discuss all options with you to ensure that the treatment and recovery methods chosen are the best for your body’s needs. All Florida Orthopaedic Institute surgeons are fellowship trained, adding more expertise in their specialty. If you have pain in your back, call Florida Orthopaedic Institute to schedule an appointment for an evaluation.

Surgical Spine Solutions

Complex back problems require specialized care. See how surgeries performed by Dr. Weinstein helped two patients improve their quality of life.

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