The fusion of vertebrae in the spine is performed to strengthen and stabilize the fused segment of the spine, thus decreasing or eliminating the back pain the spinal instability may have caused.
This surgery is called a “spine fusion” because it involves placing small morsels of bone either in the front of the spine (in the disc space) and/or along the back of the spine (in the posterolateral gutter) so that the bone grows together and fuses that particular section of the spine. Contrary to popular belief, the spine is not fused during the surgery. Instead, the surgery helps create the conditions for the spine to be able to fuse. The fusion itself usually happens over a 3- to 6-month (and sometimes up to 18-month) period of time following the surgery.
Who Are Good Candidates for Lumbar Fusion?
Since lumbar fusion is a complicated surgery, not everyone is a good candidate for it. Lumbar fusion is a good option for patients who:
- Have not found sufficient pain relief from extensive (at least six months of) nonsurgical treatment such as physical therapy, medications, and other treatments
- Have ongoing lower back pain that limits their ability to function in their daily activities at work or at home
- Have been diagnosed with a specific disc space that is causing the pain
- Have had other possible causes the pain ruled out
Undergoing a lumbar fusion is a big decision that is up to the patient; he or she needs to weigh the risks and benefits of surgery and consider the alternatives to lumbar fusion surgery. While degenerative disc disease is a non-crippling back condition, it can cause severe back pain, limiting a person’s ability to function.
When making a decision about whether to have a lumbar fusion, patients should consider the following carefully:
- Lumbar spine fusion is a major surgery
- The healing process is usually about 3 to 6 months, and sometimes up to 18 months
- Spinal fusion will change the biomechanics of the back
- Spinal fusion can increase stress on other (nonfused) joints in the spine, which could result in degeneration of other areas of the spine
- Lumbar fusion is not recommended until a patient has tried 6 to 12 months of nonsurgical intervention.
Front Range Spine and Neurosurgery has served patients with advanced microsurgical treatments for a wide variety of neurological conditions for over 15 years. They are experts in both surgical and nonsurgical treatment of intracranial and spinal disorders. At Front Range Spine and Neurosurgery, we believe that an informed patient is the best patient and we are dedicated to making a difference in the world and your life. Call (303) 790-1800 to request an appointment today.