When fusion surgery is performed in the lower back area, it’s typically because of issues with a spinal disc—usually one affected by age-related wear or some other type of damage. As the name suggests, fusion surgery involves “fusing,” or joining, adjacent spinal bones together to reduce motion within the affected area. If a lumbar fusion procedure is something you happen to be considering, here are three benefits associated with this type of surgery.
Vertebrae fused together will make the area of your spine where a damaged or worn disc was removed more stable. This is coupled with reduced flexibility, which can be beneficial because too much movement could compress nearby nerves and affect other parts of your backbone. The increased stability also allows your spine to safely and effectively handle the stress that goes along with your normal daily movements and activities.
Spinal fusion surgery is the most frequently performed spine-related procedure because of its versatility. It’s an operation that can resolve many different sources of spinal instability, including ones not directly involving spinal discs. Depending on the circumstances involved, a Santa Monica spine surgeon may recommend lower back fusion surgery for patients with spinal instability related to:
• Spinal fractures
• Slipped spinal bones that shift forward (spondylolisthesis)
• Facet (spinal) joint disease
There are also instances when a lumbar fusion procedure is performed to stabilize the spine after a spinal tumor is removed. Problem areas of the spine may also need to be stabilized with a fusion procedure because of abnormal spinal narrowing or nerve irritation associated with spinal discs. This type of fusion surgery may also be done after another type of spine-related procedure has failed.
To fuse a certain area of the spine, surgery of this nature includes the insertion of hardware that provides additional support. What this can do is make the affected spinal segment(s) less susceptible to additional injuries or continued degeneration.
Decompression surgery, on the other hand, is typically performed in a way that keeps the spine flexible. This is usually done by removing as little of a damaged structure as possible. Because the affected area will still be nearly as mobile as it was before surgery, there’s an increased risk of needing future procedures.
This doesn’t automatically mean fusion surgery is better than a decompression operation. Several factors go into the decision about which approach to spine surgery is recommended or appropriate. These patient-specific factors typically include:
• Responses to previous treatment recommendations
• The severity of spinal instability and what’s causing it
• Normal activity level and patient preferences
Keep in mind many common spinal procedures performed today are done with less invasive techniques. This is also true of fusion operations. A spine specialist can discuss the approach to a lumbar fusion procedure that’s right for your situation and determine if other treatments may be worth considering.When they’re preparing to have surgical procedures such as lumbar fusion or lumbar disc replacement, Santa Monica patients should have realistic expectations. Take the time to ask questions when you meet with your spine surgeon and get as much information as possible about what you can do before and after surgery to increase your odds of seeing positive results. Call The Spine Institute today at 310-828-7757 to schedule an in-person evaluation.