Spinal fusion surgery is done under general anesthesia. The procedure may take from 2 to 12 hours, depending on how extensive the surgery is and the technique used. Surgery may involve a large incision, or may be done using newer techniques with smaller incisions.
Small pieces of extra bone are used to fill the space between two vertebrae to fuse the spine. This bone if harvested from the patients own body is usually taken from a pelvic bone. The disc is first removed if the front of the spine needs to be fused. Bone graft substitutes, such as genetically engineered proteins, are being developed as alternatives to using bones from your body or a bone bank. The surgeon may also use wires, rods, screws, metal cages or plates to stabilise the spine as desired. As with any surgery, spinal fusion carries risks, including pain at the donor site for the bone, infection and nerve injury.
There are different types of spinal fusion.
Anterior inter-body spinal fusion is performed via an incision in a patient's abdomen. The vertebral bodies are approached from the front and a femoral ring (cadaver bone), or cylindrical cage, is placed between the two vertebral bodies. The femoral ring or cage instrumentation is filled with bone graft usually obtained from the patient's hip. If fusion is successful, motion between the vertebrae will stop and any pain caused by abnormal motion between those vertebrae will no longer exist.
Posterior spinal fusion, sometimes referred to as a post-erolateral spinal fusion, is performed from an incision made in the back. The procedure entails roughening the surfaces of the transverse processes and inserting bone graft between the transverse processes. The bone is usually obtained from a patient's hip. If fusion is successful, motion between the fused segments will stop and any pain caused by abnormal motion between those vertebrae will no longer exist.
A spine fusion is a surgery performed to link together individual segments, or vertebrae, within the spine. The spinal column, or backbone, is made up of individual bones called vertebrae. These bones are stacked together. Between each of the vertebrae is a soft cushion called a disc. The disc spaces allow each vertebrae to bend slightly; this motion allows us to bend forward and arch backwards.
Spinal instrumentation may be recommended as part of the process to perform spine fusion. The type chosen will depend on the age, the number of levels and the underlying problem.