Spinal Fusion Surgery

Back pain can be an agonizing experience for patients and at times difficult to treat. North Carolina Specialty physicians are specialist at pin pointing issues related to the back and spine and using innovative medical and surgical treatments to manage the pain. Common causes of back pain include:

  • Lumbar muscle strain
  • Ruptured disc
  • Discogenic back pain
  • Spinal stenosis
  • Osteoporosis

Physicians weigh the options of both surgical and non-surgical treatments when handling back and spine pain. Below is a list of common procedures done at NCSH:

  • Spinal Fusion
  • Kyphoplasty
  • Laminectomy

To find a physician that can best assist or answer any questions you may have for your specific back or spine condition click on Find a Physician.

Spinal fusion

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:

Spinal fusion, also called spondylodesis or spondylosyndesis, is a neurosurgical or orthopedic surgical technique that joins two or more vertebrae. This procedure can be performed at any level in the spine (cervical, thoracic, or lumbar) and prevents any movement between the fused vertebrae. There are many types of spinal fusion and each technique involves using bone grafting—either from the patient (autograft), donor (allograft), or artificial bone substitutes—to help the bones heal together.[1] Additional hardware (screws, plates, or cages) is often used to hold the bones in place while the graft fuses the two vertebrae together.

Spinal fusion is most commonly performed to relieve the pain and pressure on the spinal cord that results when a disc (cartilage between two vertebrae) wears out (degenerative disc disease).[2] Other common pathological conditions that are treated by spinal fusion include spinal stenosis, spondylolisthesis, spondylosis, spinal fractures, scoliosis, and kyphosis.[2]

Like any surgery, complications may include infection, blood loss, and nerve damage.

Spinal Surgery for Chapel Hill Patients

Fusion of L5 and S1

By PumpingRudi - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8583136.

Spinal fusion can be used to treat a variety of conditions affecting any level of the spine—lumbar, cervical and thoracic. In general, spinal fusion is performed to decompress and stabilize the spine.[3] The greatest benefit appears to be in spondylolisthesis, while evidence is less good for spinal stenosis.[4]

The most common cause of pressure on the spinal cord/nerves is degenerative disc disease.[5] Other common causes include disc herniation, spinal stenosis, trauma, and spinal tumors.[3] Spinal stenosis results from bony growths (osteophytes) or thickened ligaments that cause narrowing of the spinal canal over time.[3] This causes leg pain with increased activity, a condition called neurogenic claudication.[3] Pressure on the nerves as they exit the spinal cord (radiculopathy) causes pain in the area where the nerves originated (leg for lumbar pathology, arm for cervical pathology).[3] In severe cases, this pressure can cause neurologic deficits, like numbness, tingling, bowel/bladder dysfunction, and paralysis.[3]

Lumbar and cervical spinal fusions are more commonly performed than thoracic fusions.[5] Degeneration happens more frequently at these levels due to increased motion and stress.[5] The thoracic spine is more immobile, so most fusions are performed due to trauma or deformities like scoliosis and kyphosis.[3]

Conditions where spinal fusion may be considered include the following:

  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Spinal disc herniation
  • Discogenic pain
  • Spinal tumor
  • Vertebral fracture
  • Scoliosis
  • Kyphosis (e. g., Scheuermann's disease)
  • Spondylolisthesis
  • Spondylosis
  • Posterior rami syndrome
  • Other degenerative spinal conditions[3]
  • Any condition that causes instability of the spine[3]