Spinal fusion is a surgical procedure specifically designed to fuse two or more vertebrae to obstruct the movement, and thereby reducing the pain which is generated due to incorrect movement of vertebrae. Basically, this process is similar to welding, wherein the simple idea is to join two painful vertebrae into one single solid bone. Even though this surgical procedure is most widely used for the lumbar area, thoracic and cervical vertebrae could also be treated in certain cases of damage owing to decreased nerve pressure or accidents. A few of the other painful conditions, where orthopedic surgeons could suggest spinal fusion are spinal tumor, degenerative disease, vertebral fracture and spondylosis. In order to perform this surgery, the healthcare expert might make use of several imaging tests, such as computed tomography (CT), X-rays, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans.
Vertebral immobilization can be performed by either lateral interbody fusion or posterolateral lumbar fusion. In interbody fusion, a graft is positioned in the intervertebral space with the help of a lateral surgical approach. In this method, the procedure is minimally invasive wherein the graft is positioned with no disturbance to the nerves or opening up the back muscles. However, in posterolateral lumbar procedure, orthopedic surgeons position a graft tangential to the side of the vertebrae which regulates bone growth resulting in immobilization. Also, rods and screws are used to fix and stabilize the bones. Several materials such as stainless steel, titanium, polyether ether ketone (PEEK), and bio-absorbable materials are used to build interbody cages. Nowadays, most people prefer resorbable or bio-absorbable materials due to their unique property of being absorbed in the body with time. This eradicates repeat surgery which is needed to extract the implant once the bone has healed. Additionally, bio-absorbable material does not experience magnetic resonance effect or magnetic fields, and also promote enhanced imaging.
There are various ways to perform lumbar spinal fusion surgery, all of which postulate the below-mentioned procedures:
- Assemble a biological response which results in the bone graft to develop in-between the two vertebrae to generate bone fusion
- To a specific segment of the spine, a bone graft is added
- The boney fusion, which leads to one fixed by substituting a mobile joint, stops the motion at that particular segment of joint
Risks associated with Spinal Fusion
Every surgery come with some minimum risks associated with it. Similarly, risks of spinal fusion are dependent on overall health and age, the reason for this procedure, and the type of procedure appropriate for a patient. A few of the common risks include:
- Injury of the nerve
- Pain and swelling at the bone graft area
- Probably blood clots which might result in pulmonary embolism
- Breaking of metal implants or fusion failure
- Graft rejection