Fusion surgery is the most common type of spine surgery performed in the United States. Advances in technology have also made the procedure itself more accurate and successful than it was even a decade ago. Barring any urgent medical conditions, however, the decision to opt for traditional spinal fusion surgery should be based on what’s right for you based on your symptoms and how much the pain is impacting your life.
Spinal fusion becomes an option when the primary source of your back pain has been identified. Lower back pain resulting from degenerative changes tends to respond best to fusion surgery. It’s also necessary to eliminate other sources of back pain that often mimic degenerative back pain, some of which include:
• Piriformis syndrome (an uncommon neuromuscular disorder caused by compression on the sciatic nerve) • Hip osteoarthritis • Sacroiliac joint dysfunction
A common determining factor with spine surgery is how well you’re responding to other treatments, especially when it comes to your quality of life. The nature of degenerative conditions means that treatments that may have been working well for you at one time may no long provide relief when discs wear down to the point where nerves become affected.
Seek multiple opinions to determine if the source of your back pain has been properly identified. An aging disc can look very similar to one that has degenerated to the point where it’s causing pain. Multiple scans may be necessary to confirm the disc(s) responsible for the discomfort you’re experiencing. A CT-discogram (the injection of dye into disc space in an effort to recreate a patient’s pain) is another type of diagnostic test that can be used to better identify the correct disc.
There’s always the risk that spinal fusion won’t be entirely successful, or the fusion may weaken other parts of the spine. Before making a decision, ask questions and determine if you’ve exhausted all non-surgical spine treatments, including acupuncture and other options sometimes overlooked within the mainstream medical community.
To learn more about spinal fusion surgery or to discover other back treatment options, reach out to The Spine Institute at (310) 828-7757. The path to a pain free life start here.