Spinal fusion is a procedure that is used to treat pain in the lower back, hips, upper legs and buttocks caused by disc herniation, degenerative disc disease and other conditions affecting the lumbar spine.
When our lumbar spine specialist in New Jersey performs spinal fusion, he widens the spinal canal, removing herniated discs and providing support and stability to the area through a bone graft between the affected vertebrae. Titanium screws and rods are used to provide additional support.
In permanently joining two vertebrae together, the surgeon is able to provide the patient with tremendous relief. Here are a few things you need to know before undergoing this procedure:
- Though spinal fusion once required patients submitting to a significant incision in their back, cutting through muscles, requiring extensive time for rehabilitation and leaving a big scar in their back, the procedure can now be done using minimally invasive surgery that uses a one-to-two inch incision and allowing for much faster recovery.
- Most patients who choose spinal fusion will be able to return to the activities they enjoyed prior to experiencing back pain, including athletics. Many will find that they have greater mobility than they did before the surgery.
- Though spinal fusion offers many advantages, there are other treatment options that should be tried first, including physical therapy and spinal injections. Conservative approaches are always tried first at our spine specialty practice in New Jersey.
- Studies have shown that when patients have been diagnosed with degenerative spondylolisthesis with spinal stenosis, for spinal instability and for spinal deformity, fusion surgery provides the best option for pain relief and improved mobility.
- Spinal fusion offers an effective option for patients who are suffering from specific back problems, but the procedure is not a cure-all. If a patient’s condition is complicated by arthritis or disc problems outside of the area where the fusion was performed, they are likely to continue experiencing discomfort and may need further treatment at some point in the future.
If you are a candidate for spinal fusion surgery and you choose to have the procedure, here is what you can expect:
- After you have been properly prepped for your surgery and anesthetized, our lumbar spine surgeon will make a small incision in the area of your back that has been identified as the cause of your pain, move away the muscle that lies in front of the vertebrae and remove any bone that has built up over the years. This will make more room for your spinal nerves. Damaged or herniated discs will also be removed.
- Bone grafts will be inserted into place to fuse the vertebrae remaining together, and titanium screws will be used to strengthen the site of the graft.
Though it generally takes several months for fusion to be completed, patients will generally begin to feel the positive effects of the surgery within two to six weeks.
For information on whether you are a candidate for spinal fusion surgery, contact our spinal specialty practice in New Jersey today to set up a time for you to come in for an examination.