What is Spinal Fusion Surgery?Spinal fusion surgery is performed to join together the painful vertebras of the person’s spinal column that cause pain through their movement. This procedure essentially ‘welds’ together the two consecutive vertebras in the spine whose movement is the cause of pain in the spinal column.
When do I need Spinal Fusion Surgery?Spinal fusion surgery is required when the cause of the back pain is found to be the vertebras in a person. This condition can be caused due to various factors, such as:
- Spinal fracture
- Spinal stenosis
- Degenerative disk disease
How is Spinal Fusion Surgery performed?A spinal fusion surgery can be done from a front incision (anterior approach) or a back incision (posterior approach). Also, the minimally invasive procedure technique is used for certain cases requiring spinal fusion.
The first after choosing the type of approach and making the incision is to get a suitable bone graft that is required to ‘fuse’ together the affected vertebras. Smaller pieces of bone are used to fill in the space between the vertebras.
There are different options for cultivating a bone graft, these are:
- Autograft – The autografting method uses bone pieces acquired from the patient themselves. Usually a small piece of bone from the hip is harvested and used to seal the gap between the two vertebras.
- Allograft – This method uses bone pieces acquired from an external graft bank (cadavers/donors).
- Artificial Bone Graft – At times ‘demineralised bone matrices’ (DBM) are made from calcium acquired from cadaver bones. These DBMs are used to create soft putty-like substance that helps in fusing the vertebras. Also the doctor might decide to cultivate ‘bone morphogenetic protein’ (BMP) which are strong artificial bone-making proteins.
- Ceramic – Artificial phosphate/calcium materials are similar in characteristic to autograft bones and often used for ‘fusing’ the vertebras.
Are there any risks or complications from Spinal Fusion Surgery?As in any major type of surgery there is a slight risk of certain complications that can arise, these are:
- Infection – The risk of infection is foreseen and the doctor will prescribe the required antibiotics to lessen this risk altogether.
- Bleeding – This is expected but not a remarkable risk.
- Pain – In case of pain at the operated graft site the doctor will prescribe certain painkillers to alleviate the pain.
- Pseudarthrosis – This is generally seen in patients who have a smoking habit. Smoking often hinders the bone forming ability of the body.
- Nerve damage – In case a nerve gets affected during the surgery the doctor will advise precautionary measures that will help normalize the affected nerve with sufficient time.