Degenerative disc disease affecting the lumbar region of the spine has traditionally been treated using lumbar spinal fusion surgery. Patients who suffer from chronic low back pain for a period of at least six months despite adhering to a routine of nonsurgical methods to treat the pain are potentially good candidates for spinal fusion.
Not everybody with back pain requires surgery, but if the vast array of nonsurgical procedures make no impact on a patient’s pain, and the pain prevents the patient from functioning normally, it may be time to consider surgical options. An experienced spine surgeon must be able to locate the exact source of pain to move forward with surgical options. In order to do this, a pain specialist may use X-rays, CT scans, and MRI.
Spinal fusion surgery joins or “fuses” two or more problematic spinal vertebrae to create one larger mass of bone. This prevents the fused joints from moving and causing pain.
A piece of bone called a bone graft is taken from the patient’s own pelvic bone or a donor to encourage bone growth. After the surgeon removes bone mass from the vertebrae, metal rods and screws are implanted to stabilize the spine. The graft is placed against the vertebrae and over a period of weeks new bone mass grows and attaches itself to the spine creating a permanent fusion.
Spinal fusion surgery is often used to treat arthritis of the facet joints, back pain associated with spine instability, and progressive deformity of the spine like scoliosis. The incision to begin spinal fusion can be made from the front, the back, or both and depends on the patient’s specific needs.
Due to the nature of the surgery, stiffening of the spine is a necessary effect. Still, overall mobility may be improved if the surgery was successful in its endeavor to relieve pain. Long-term pain relief usually comes after the bone has fully healed, or several weeks following the surgery. Unfortunately, the successful healing of the bone does not guarantee effective pain relief.
The typical surgical risks are associated with this delicate procedure, including postoperative infections, bleeding, and anesthetic complications. Talk to a spinal fusion specialist in New Jersey for a complete rundown of spinal fusion surgery and find out if it is right to treat your lower back pain.