Spinal fusion is surgery to permanently connect two or more vertebrae in your spine, eliminating motion between them.
Spinal fusion is also known as:
- anterior spinal fusion
- posterior spinal fusion
- vertebral interbody fusion
Spinal fusion involves techniques designed to mimic the normal healing process of broken bones. During spinal fusion, your surgeon places bone or a bonelike material within the space between two spinal vertebrae. Metal plates, screws and rods may be used to hold the vertebrae together, so they can heal into one solid unit.
Why it’s done
it’s useful for treating spinal disorders that make movement painful.
These disorders include:
- spinal weakness or instability
- spinal stenosis
- herniated discs
- degenerative disc disease
- fractured vertebrae that may be making your spinal column unstable
- scoliosis (curvature of the spine)
- kyphosis (abnormal rounding of the upper spine)
- spinal weakness or instability due to severe arthritis, tumors, or infections
- spondylolisthesis (a condition in which one vertebra slips onto the vertebra below it, causing severe pain)
A spinal fusion procedure may also include a discectomy. When the disc is removed, bone grafts are placed into the empty disc space to maintain the right height between bones. Your doctor uses the two vertebrae on either side of the removed disc to form a bridge (or fusion) across the bone grafts to promote long-term stability.
When spinal fusion is performed in the cervical spine along with a discectomy, it’s called cervical fusion. Instead of removing a vertebra, the surgeon removes discs or bone spurs from the cervical spine, which is in the neck. Contact a pain specialist if you have any of these symptoms or conditions.