Traditional spine fusion surgery literally fuses together individual vertebra to prevent pain associated with movement in that particular area of the spine. However, it’s understandable for patients to wonder how a fusion may impact the rest of the spine.
A fusion creates added stress to discs directly above and below the area that was fused. This added stress may, over time, accelerate wear and tear on nearby vertebrae, sometimes resulting in additional issues in adjacent areas of the spine. Newer approaches to fusion surgery such as motion-preserving surgical procedures, however, may reduce the risk of spine-related problems in areas above and below where the fusion took place.
What a spinal fusion is really doing is transferring stress to other areas of the spine, away from the area that’s now joined together. This isn’t a problem as long as the patient takes reasonable precautions, especially in the months following surgery. However, patients should be aware of the possibility of accelerating degeneration of discs and joints throughout the spine due to the extra stress. Patients needing fusions at multiple locations may also be at increased risk of developing degenerative conditions.
Studies suggest that patients with a relatively healthy spine, aside from the area where fusion is necessary to reduce pain, tend to have little or no impact on the rest of their spine following their recovery period. Patients with a family history of back issues may also be at increased risk of developing additional issues following fusion surgery.
Losing weight or adopting a doctor-approved exercise program following fusion surgery may also help maintain movement while reducing the risk of further injury to the spine. To further increase the success of fusion surgery, patients are encouraged to follow doctor’s recommendations and report unusual discomfort or pain.
If you are a candidate for one or two level fusion surgery but are exploring your other options or seeking a second opinion, reach out to Dr. Hyun Bae at the Spine Institute Center for Spinal Restoration. He is a leading Beverly Hills spine surgeon who specializes in minimally invasive and non-fusion surgeries.
Learn more about some of the non-fusion options that Dr. Bae specializes in such as artificial disc replacement with Mobi-C or contact us directly at 310-828-7757 for more information or to request an in-person consultation.