What is Lumbar Spine Fusion?
One treatment option to help relieve the symptoms caused by degenerative disc disease (DDD) 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 purposefully left there to fuse with 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 between 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, their 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
Ideal candidates for this surgical procedure are those who have been suffering from pain and other symptoms of degenerative disc disease, who 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 the cause of the symptoms, and the extent of the damage caused 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 – the final decision to go through with the surgery belongs to the patient.
How the Procedure is Done
When a patient is cleared for lumbar spine fusion surgery, the surgeon will study any x-ray and MRI images to determine which approach they 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 used may also vary. The techniques used to perform this surgery greatly depend on the instrument the surgeon chooses to use. Once the surgeon has a solid surgical plan, they will discuss their planned approach with the patient.
This procedure also involves harvesting 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. Tools and instruments like cylinders, rods, and screws are then used to keep the pieces of bone in place until they fuse with existing bones.
For more information about degenerative disc disease and lumbar spine fusion, call us today to schedule a consultation session with one of the members of our surgical team.