When is Lumbar Fusion Necessary?

Lower back pain is a common problem that improves with conservative treatments such as medication and therapy. However, sometimes patients may not respond to non-surgical treatment options, necessitating lumbar fusion in Bethlehem to alleviate the pain. Spinal instability is the main reason why your specialist may recommend surgery. Your spine may become unstable due to an injury or degenerative changes that lead to structural changes. The following is a description of lumbar fusion and all you need to know about the procedure.

What is lumbar fusion?

Spinal or lumbar fusion is surgery that connects two or more vertebrae to stop the motion of a painful vertebral segment. The procedure mimics the natural healing process of broken bones in the body. For this surgical procedure, a bone graft is placed between two vertebrae, and metal plates and screws may be used to hold the two bones together so that they fuse into one unit.

Lumbar fusion can benefit patients with spinal deformities such as scoliosis. Sometimes severe back pain due to lumbar degenerative disc disease may benefit from spinal fusion. Below is an in-depth explanation of what a general spinal fusion procedure looks like.

Lumbar fusion procedure

First, your anesthesiologist administers general anesthesia before the procedure, making you unaware of your surroundings. The surgical approach your specialist uses depends on different factors, such as the reason for spinal fusion, the location of the vertebrae, and your overall well-being. A general spinal fusion procedure would look like this.

First, your surgeon makes an incision to access the spine. There are different areas through which the surgeon may access the spine. They include your neck, back, abdomen, and throat. Next, the surgeon prepares bone grafts which may be obtained from a donor or your own body. If your specialist uses your bone, they will remove a small part of it from your pelvis.

The grafts are placed between the vertebrae to create bone fusion. Sometimes surgeons use synthetic instead of bone grafts to promote growth and fasten the vertebrae’s fusion. Finally, the surgeon secures the vertebrae with metal plates, screws, and rods to hold the bones in place as the graft heals.

What happens after surgery?

You will remain at the medical facility for two to three days after surgery. It is normal to experience pain after general anesthesia wears away. The severity of the pain depends on the extent of the surgical procedure. Your doctor may prescribe pain medications to control the discomfort. Your doctor may recommend braces to keep your spine in position during this healing period. You may need physical therapy to learn techniques to keep your spine aligned as you sit, walk, and stand.

How effective is lumbar fusion?

With lumbar fusion, problems such as fractures, spinal instability, and deformities usually improve. However, if the cause of your back pain is unclear, the efficacy of spinal fusion may not exceed those of conventional treatments. Patients whose pain results from degenerative conditions such as arthritis may develop the pain in the future since surgery does not address the underlying problem.

If you have severe back pain that will not respond to conservative treatments, consult with your surgeon at Polaris Spine and Neurosurgery Center to know whether lumbar fusion is an option for you.