What is Lumbar Spine Fusion?
For people with degenerative disc disease (DDD), one treatment option to help relieve the symptoms they experience is to undergo lumbar spine fusion surgery. This surgical procedure is performed by placing bits of bone in strategic places in the lumbar region or lower part of the spine. These fragments of bone are left there to fuse with the existing spinal bones.
This procedure relieves back pain caused by DDD by eliminating any motion in the segments affected by the condition. The fusion of the bone fragments to the existing bone usually takes 3 to 18 months after the surgery is performed. Bone fusion is permanent, which is why most doctors suggest other non-surgical treatment methods like physical therapy, medication, the use of back braces, and other types of treatment that don’t require surgery. Unfortunately, for a lot of patients with DDD, the pain and symptoms may be resistant to non-surgical methods. When this happens, bone fusion is almost always the best option.
Ideal Candidates for Lumbar Spine Fusion
The ideal candidates for this surgical procedure are those who have been suffering from pain and other symptoms of degenerative disc disease and have not found relief after at least 6 months of physical therapy, medication, or other non-surgical treatment methods. These symptoms include pain in the lower back, and sciatica or a sharp pain felt in the legs.
To identify whether a patient is a good candidate for surgery or not, a series of tests may be administered to pinpoint what’s causing the symptoms and the extent of the damage to the spine. With this type of permanent surgery, surgeons can only suggest bone fusion to a patient who is deemed to be a good candidate; however, the final decision to go through with the surgery still belongs to the patient.
How this Procedure is Done
When a patient is cleared for lumbar spine fusion surgery, the surgeon will study the x-ray and MRI images to determine what approach he or she will take to reach the spine. The lumbar region of the spine can be accessed through the back (posterior) with the patient facing down on the table, or through the front of the body (anterior) with the patient lying on his or her back.
There are some cases where the surgeon uses a combination of both approaches, especially when the level of instability in the patient’s spine is quite high. The instruments and devices may also vary. The techniques used to perform this surgery will greatly depend on the instrument the surgeon chooses to use. Once the surgeon has come up with a surgical plan, he or she will discuss this with the patient.
This procedure also involves harvesting the bone fragments from parts of the spine, tail bone, or pelvic bone to be inserted in the gaps between the vertebrae to induce bone fusion. The tools and instruments used like cylinders, rods, and screws are then used to keep the pieces of bone in place until they fuse with the existing bones.
For more information about degenerative disc disease and lumbar spine fusion, call us today and schedule a consultation session with one of the members of our surgical team.