Damage due to age-related wear, injuries and accidents, spinal deformities, and instability caused by the removal of a damaged spinal disc are some of the reasons you may need implants surgically placed within your backbone or its related parts. Because there are different types of spinal implants that can be used, it can be helpful to have a better understanding of what’s available before you make a decision about which procedure is right for your needs.
The purpose of fusion surgery is to connect two or more vertebrae together to stabilize the spine and prevent excessive movement. While spinal injuries sometimes cause the backbone to become unstable, the more common reason for fusion surgery is to keep the spine stable after a damaged disc is removed. Fusion procedures typically involve the following spinal implants:
• Rods • Metal plates • Cages • Special screws
Cages maintain sufficient space between two areas, usually until bone graft material turns into solid bone tissue. Held in place by small pedicle screws, rods keep the spine stable. Plates also keep vertebrae stable until new bone forms and tissues heal.
Some procedures involve the use of implants in a way that uses spinal fusion alternatives. Santa Monica patients will likely discover the most common example is an artificial spinal disc, which is made of synthetic materials that mimic the look and feel of an actual spinal disc. The main benefit associated with artificial discs is the ability to retain a natural range of motion in the affected area.
A flexible rod is another type of non-fusion spinal implant that may be used. It’s a newer type of rod meant to be an alternative to traditional hard or inflexible rods, and it’s appealing because it expands and flexes as the patient grows and the surgical site heals. This type of implant is increasingly being used on younger patients with pediatric scoliosis to reduce the number of operations children need as they grow and develop.
Spinal cord stimulation (SCS) involves the use of an implantable device called a spinal cord stimulator. It works by transmitting controlled electrical impulses to nerves that are damaged or sending incorrect pain signals. The impulses stimulate affected nerves in or around the spinal cord. The goal is to cancel out pain signals being sent to the part of the brain that interprets pain to decrease pain-related sensations. If SCS is effective, you may enjoy benefits that include:
• A better response to physical therapy • An ability to resume your normal activities without distracting pain • Less reliance on medication that may have side effects associated with long-term use, such as the potential for addiction
Depending on your situation, it may not be possible to avoid implants altogether. However, if there isn’t a pressing medical need for a procedure that involves implants, talk to a spine specialist about non-surgical options you may not have considered. For instance, some patients benefit from injections, chiropractic adjustments, and lifestyle changes that include losing weight, getting more exercise, eating more nutrient-rich foods, and improving posture.
If you need to be evaluated for spinal implants or any other kind of spinal surgery, make sure to consult with an experienced minimally invasive spine surgeon. Santa Monica residents can trust the spine surgery experts at The Spine Institute to give you all the information you need to prepare for your surgery and help you recover as safely and comfortably as possible. Call us today at 310-828-7757 to schedule a consultation.