While there was a significant increase in fusion surgery prior to 2001, data beyond that point is limited. However, advances in minimally invasive spine procedures and the growing popularity of disc replacement rather than traditional fusion surgery suggest a shift away from automatically deferring to fusion surgery for relief from back pain.
More Viable Alternatives to Fusion Surgery
The main reason for a likely shift away from fusion surgery is the growing number of viable alternatives to fusion surgery, which limits movement at the site of the fusion. Disc replacement surgery, for instance, is becoming increasingly available to patients – and it’s often preferred due to shorter recovery times, fewer complications and the retention of range of motion and movement. Additional alternatives to fusion surgery either already in use or in the clinical trial phase include:
- Total disc replacement
- Disc nucleus replacement
- Interspinous process spacers
- Posterior dynamic stabilization devices
- Facet (spinal joint) replacement
Increased Preference for Non-Surgical Treatments
Another reason for a shift away from fusion surgery is an increased preference for non-surgical treatments when possible. Even with something like degenerative disc disease, the pain is usually manageable with conservative treatments like medications and lower back pain exercises meant to strengthen supporting structures of the spine. The growing acceptance of alternative treatments like acupuncture and chiropractic adjustments is also likely having some effect on the desire to save surgery of any kind as a last resort.
Finding the Right Treatment for You
As fusion alternatives become more widespread, expenses associated with such procedures are likely to go down. It’s also likely that more insurance providers will be willing to provide some degree of coverage as more data becomes available. However, it’s important to discuss all options, including traditional fusion surgery, with your doctor before making a final decision on treatment. While fusion alternatives like artificial disc replacement produce encouraging results, fusion surgery has a more established history, so it shouldn’t automatically be ruled out.
If you have questions about fusion surgery or non-fusion alternatives, reach out to Dr. Hyun Bae, one of the top spine surgeons in Beverly Hills who specializes in minimally invasive and motion-preserving spine surgeries, and request an in-person consultation. Call (310) 828-7757 and start on the path toward a more comfortable lifestyle.