There are many different kinds of spinal complications that can arise in patients for a number of reasons. Whether they are caused by injury, congenital diseases, or degeneration over time, one of the many solutions available is spine fusion surgery.
This form of surgery involves permanently fusing two or more vertebrae together to prevent movement between them. The process begins with the doctor making a surgical incision to view the spine, separating the muscles and tissue. Other spinal surgeries, such as discectomy, laminectomy, or foraminotomy are almost always performed first. The location of the incision depends on which vertebrae are affected by the condition. This can be over the back of your neck or anywhere along the back. Surgeries performed on the lower back are typically done with the patient lying on his or her side.
To actually fuse the bones together, the surgeon will use a graft, which can be done so in a variety of ways. The grafts themselves are commonly derived from bone, and may be placed across the back part of the spine, or in between the vertebrae. Special cages may be placed in between the vertebrae as well, which are filled with Polyetheretherketone, or PEEK, and are packed with bone graft material.
Doctors will obtain bone graft material from several places. One place may be around the iliac crest, which is known as an autograft. To do this, a small incision will be made over the hip to remove bone from the back of the rim of the pelvis. Obtaining the bone graft material from a bone bank is known as an allograft. Another way of repairing the vertebrae may be by introducing rods, screws, plates, or cages, which are used to prevent the vertebrae from moving while the bone grafts are healing.
Spine fusion surgery is often done in conjunction with other surgical procedures of the spine, such as spinal stenosis, and the previously mentioned foraminotomy, or after a discectomy in the neck. Common reasons for performing this surgery include injuries or fractures to the spine or neck, weakness in the spine caused by infections or tumors, abnormal curvatures from scoliosis or kyphosis, or arthritis. A more rare condition may be Spondylolisthesis; this is caused by vertebrae slipping forward onto the bone below it.
Regardless of conditions or complications, patients should work closely with their doctors to decide whether or not surgery is required, and if introducing spinal fusion would be beneficial.