Spinal fusion is major surgery that is used to treat a variety of neck and back conditions, including degenerative disc disease. Spinal fusion surgery results in significant and permanent changes to the structure of the neck and back, therefore, fusion surgery should be utilized only when other treatments have failed.
Some medical professionals believe that spinal fusion surgery is necessary to strengthen weaknesses in the spinal column. Weaknesses may be caused by injury, disease, aging, birth defects, and more. Others believe that since normal movement causes pain in some patients, relief is possible by immobilizing the damaged parts of the spine.
Traditional degenerative disc disease surgery often involves some form of spinal fusion. A few techniques of spinal fusion surgery include:
- Removing damaged, diseased, and injured parts of the spine such as discs, vertebrae, etc.
- Placing grafted bone over the place where diseased bone and tissue was removed. Grafted bone may come from a donor site in your own body or from a cadaver, or a synthetic bone may be used.
- Using metal rods and plates to immobilize the fusion area while the grafted bone permanently unites the fused vertebrae.
Fusion hardware serves no further purpose once grafted bone unites the fusion area.
Since the goal of spinal fusion surgery is to reduce pain, and degenerative disc disease is a main cause of neck and back pain in the United States, spinal fusion is commonly used to treat this condition. As a matter of fact, hundreds of thousands of spinal fusion surgeries are performed every year, many of them to treat degenerative disc disease symptoms.
Like any major surgery, spinal fusion is not without risk. Possible complications of this surgery include infection, bleeding, problems with general anesthesia, nerve damage, extensive scar formation interfering with spinal nerves, non-union of fusion bone, and others. Furthermore, it is possible that even after enduring this invasive surgery and its lengthy recuperation time, the pain of degenerative disc disease may persist or recur. Finally, spinal fusion transfers stress adjacent spinal vertebra hastening their damage and degeneration.
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If you are considering spinal fusion as a treatment for your neck and back pain, you should explore all the options available to you before making a final decision. Laser Spine Institute offers several innovative endoscopic procedures to treat degenerative disc disease and many other conditions with significantly less risk than spinal fusion surgery. At LSI, all of our procedures are minimally invasive and are performed on an outpatient basis. LSI’s technique results in a much shorter recovery period. You can be back to your normal activities much more quickly. Please contact LSI today to learn more about our procedures and to receive a complimentary review of your MRI or CT scan.