Spinal fusion (spondylodesis or spondylosyndesis) is the surgical method of joining two or more verebrae. It is done most commonly in the lumbar region of the spine, but it is also used to treat cervical and thoracic problems. In this procedure, the damaged and painful vertebrae are fused into a solid stable bone. Fusion of the spine is used primarily to eliminate the pain caused by abnormal motion of the vertebrae by immobilizing the faulty vertebrae themselves, which is usually caused by degenerative conditions. However, spinal fusion is also the preferred way to treat most spinal deformities, specifically scoliosis and kyphosis. But, the results may vary according to the individual. Some may not feel any improvement in their back pain even after the surgery.
When is Fusion Recommended
- Degenerative disc disease
- Spinal Stenosis
Lumbar spinal fusion can be divided into two categories.
- Posterolateral Fusion :In the back of the spine, the bone graft is placed in amid the transverse processes. With the help of wires and screws, the vertebrae is carefully fixed throughout the particles of every vertebrae. A rod is made up of metal which is attached on the side of vertebrae.
- Interbody Fusion :In this, the graft of the bone is placed in between the vertebrae and the area is generally engaged by the intervertebral disc. The disc is entirely removed in preparing for the spinal fusion. In order to maintain the disc height and spine alignment, a device can be placed in between the vertebrae. This device (intervertebral device) can either be prepared from titanium or plastic. Then the fusion starts in between the vertebrae’s endplates. Interbody fusion is of 3 types-
- Posterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion (PLIF)
- Transforaminal Lumbar Interbody Fusion (TLIF)
- Anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion (ALIF)
- Transpsoas Interbody Fusion (XLIF or DLIF)
In most cases, spinal fusion can eliminate the pain and other symptoms. It is important for a surgeon to explain the options, and benefits of spinal fusion surgery. There are many advantages of Spinal fusion surgery such as:
- By fusing the level, there is less concern that the patient will need surgery again at that level. If the discs and/or facets are pain generators, as is often the case, a fusion will ensure that motion at the level is stopped, potentially eliminating the low back pain.
- A second advantage of spinal fusion surgery is that it reduces post-decompressive deformity. Some patients develop post-laminectomy kyphosis, which is an abnormal alignment of the spine. This too can often lead to additional surgery. Similarly, a fusion can correct any deformity the patient had before surgery and ensure that the normal alignment of the spine is restored. This may reduce wear and tear (and need for future surgery) on the neighboring levels.
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