Spine Fusion to Ease Neck and Low Back Pain
If your low back or neck pain has not improved with conservative approaches such as physical therapy or steroid injections, you may be considering spinal fusion. You are not alone. In fact, nearly half of a million spine fusions are conducted in the United States annually. However, spine fusion—like any major surgery—is a decision that you should weigh carefully and understand the risks and probable outcomes.
As back pain specialists and spine fusion experts, the neurosurgeons at Neurosurgery One (formerly South Denver Neurosurgery) take every step necessary to recommend back pain treatment options that will offer you the best benefit. If we recommend spine fusion, we will be sure you understand the reason for our recommendation, the risks and benefits, and the research supporting our recommendation. You can be assured that our recommendation is based on the most current evidence-based research and our extensive spine surgery experience.
What is Spinal Fusion?
Spinal fusion permanently fuses two or more vertebrae together through a surgical procedure. While spine fusion can occur anywhere on the spine, it is most commonly performed in the lower back (lumbar fusion) and neck (cervical fusion).
How is Spinal Fusion Surgery Done?
Spinal fusion can be performed in one of two ways:
- With human bone either from other areas of the body or through donor bone. The bone is used to create a bridge between the vertebrae.
- With metal implants that hold the vertebrae together
Based on the patient’s diagnosis, spinal fusion surgery can be performed either through open surgery (also known as traditional surgery) or minimally invasive surgery.
What Conditions Can Be Effectively Treated Through Spine Fusion?
While all patients must be evaluated for spine fusion surgery on an individual basis, the following conditions may benefit from spinal fusion surgery more than other back pain conditions:
- When injury or misalignment of the vertebrae occurs
- Spinal stenosis
- Herniated disc
- Certain spinal deformities
Benefits of Spine Fusion
Spinal fusion is certainly not recommended for everyone, yet the spine procedure can provide several benefits for properly selected candidates who have not found sustainable relief through other non-surgical back pain treatment options. Between 60 percent and 90 percent of spine fusion patients have significantly reduced back pain or their back pain has completely been eliminated after receiving a spine fusion, according to numerous studies. Spine fusion also has been shown to prevent back pain re-occurrence rates. Newer titanium and plastic intervertebral implants provide greater stability, allowing quicker and more fully-fused grafts.
Risks of Spine Fusion
Like all surgeries, spine fusion surgery carries risks, such as anesthesia reaction, infection, or negatively impacting other pre-existing health conditions. These risks are minimized by careful consideration of your health history and also by partnering with select hospitals to ensure the highest level of quality standards. Neurosurgery One neurosurgeons currently perform spine fusion surgery at Littleton Adventist Hospital, St. Anthony Hospital, Parker Adventist Hospital, and OrthoColorado Hospital.
Another risk is that new pain and/or degeneration of the discs above or below the fusion can occur. However, medical research has not yet been able to determine if the additional degeneration is due to genetics or is a result of fusion.
While no surgeon can guarantee the level of back pain relief you will experience after spine fusion, the Neurosurgery One experts carefully assess and qualify all spinal fusion candidates to provide you with the best opportunity for improvement in your back pain.