Spinal Fusion

Repairing your back

By Brandie Umar, Executive Director of ContentLast modified: December 21, 2011

Spinal Fusion

Spinal fusion surgery is a major orthopedic procedure to fuse together two or more vertebrae in the spine. This back surgery procedure, also known as spondylodesis is performed to eliminate spinal pain, stabilise the spine after injury, to and correct spinal cuvatures for conditions such as scolosis. Spinal fusion can be used for conditions such as degenerative disk disease, spinal stenosis or after removal of tumours on the spine.


How Does Spinal Fusion Work?

In between vertebrae in the spine are cushioned disks. These disks cushion the vertebrate and allow movement in the spine. Spinal fusion involves removing the connection between the disk and the vertebrae to restrict movement in certain areas of the spine to reduce pain or to prevent curvatures.

The goal of spinal fusion is literally to fuse the spine, or more specifically the vertebrae in the spine. To do this, orthopedic surgeons use bone grafting methods to stimulate natural bone growth in the gap between vertebrae to fuse two or more vertebrae together.

Vertebrae can be fused using bone taken from another area of the body, commonly the pelvic bone or hip, or can be sourced from a bone-bank(similar to a blood bank where donated/harvested bone is retained in sterile conditions).  Once the bone graft is in place, metal rods are placed between the vertebrae to hold them apart as the new bone grows inbetween. This is known as immobilization as the process immobilizes and prevents movement in the vertebrae. 

Spinal fusion surgery can be performed removing the damaged, or ineffective disk from between the vertebrae- inter-body spinal fusion - or by placing the bone graft around the disc allowing it to remain in position -posterolateral fusion. 

What Is The Success Of Spinal Fusion?

Spinal fusion is often a successful procedure to eliminate movement between vertebrae, however the surgery is controversial. Spinal fusion has been proven successful for repairing damage to the spine following injury. The controversy arises with spinal fusion to treat back pain as the improvement in patients pain is comparable to ongoing physiotherapy. Currently, orthopaedic surgeons are showing a tendency to recommend total disk replacement as an alternative spinal surgery to spinal fusion.

For more in-depth information about spinal fusion to treat upper and lower back pain, the differences between spinal fusion and total disk replacement and to learn if either of these procedures will improve your back pain;

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