Spine Fusion Back Surgery
What is spine fusion surgery?
A spine fusion is a surgery that is done to link together two or more vertebrae. When there is a problem with the vertebrae (often a problem with the disc space), your doctor may recommend a spine fusion to eliminate the motion that occurs within that portion of the spine. By linking together the vertebrae, your doctor is trying to eliminate the source of your back problem.
How does a spine fusion work?
During spine fusion surgery, your doctor will attempt to stimulate bone growth between the vertebrae.
As part of the process to perform spine fusion, your surgeon may recommend spinal instrumentation. This means that your surgeon will also place metal within your spine to hold the vertebral bones together. Spinal instrumentation exists in many different types. Your surgeon will recommend a particular type of instrumentation, depending on many factors including the underlying problem being treated, the age of the patient, the number of levels of the spine being fused, and other factors.
What are the problems with spine fusion surgery?
There are several concerns with spine fusion surgery, but overall the procedure works very well for the vast majority of patients. Among the concerns of surgery are:
The segments do not fuse
One of the most difficult parts of spine fusion surgery, is that often it is hard to get the new bone to grow. There are ways to stimulate bone growth in spine fusion surgery, but like everything else there are potential drawbacks. The possibilities to stimulate bone growth include using extra bone from the pelvis to stimulate new bone growth, using bone chips from a donor (allograft), or using a manufactured bone substitute.
The vertebrae and discs next to the spine fusion develop problems
This problem tends to develop years after the surgery. When the bad segments of spine are fused together, the segments next to the fusion have more forces applied. This so-called 'adjacent level' degeneration can cause problems after successful spine fusion. This is one reason why spinal disc replacement is being developed.
A spine fusion is surgery that is done to eliminate motion between adjacent vertebrae. The spine fusion may be done because to treat a problem such as spondylolisthesis (unstable spine), or it may be done because of the extent of other surgery (such as a laminectomy).