A fusion is a surgical technique that involves eliminating the motion in between vertebrae by “welding” the bones together. By fusing the bones together, they heal into a single, solid unit. A fusion procedure may be recommended to eliminate painful motion, restore your alignment or posture, or provide stability to your spine. In certain cases, your surgeon may perform a laminectomy in addition to the fusion procedure if you have leg symptoms, such as pain or numbness. Our goal is to identify that your degenerative disc is the cause of your ongoing symptoms. Fusion surgery is one way to treat your symptoms.
There are multiple methods your surgeon may consider when fusing your spine. Most fusions involve an interbody device, or cage, that is placed in the area between the two vertebral bodies or your intervertebral disc. This interbody implant is placed once your surgeon removes the disc which is the one of the main cause of back pain for many patients. Implants may be made from a variety of materials including metal, plastic or bone. Typically, bone grafts or biologic technology are also placed within the implant and or interbody space to encourage bony healing. In addition, the implant restores the height of your former disc by holding the two vertebrae apart the way a normal, healthy disc would. By restoring the height of your disc, this increases the opening around your nerve roots thereby relieving pressure on your nerves, which is also called indirect decompression. The implants may also be used to correct spinal deformity, restore proper alignment, and stabilize the spine. Not all spinal fusions involve interbody devices however.
Fusions are typically named by the approach to the spine
Reviewed by: Dr. Christopher Good, MD, FACS.