Spinal fusion, also called arthrodesis, is a surgical technique used to join two or more vertebrae (bones) within the spine. Lumbar fusion technique is the procedure of fusing the vertebrae in lumbar portion of the spine (lower back).
Lumbar fusion surgery may be used to treat spondylolisthesis (slipping of the spine bones), degenerated discs, scoliosis or kyphosis (abnormal curvature of the spine), spinal infections or tumors, traumatic injury of the spine, recurrent disc herniation, and unstable spine.
The surgery can be done as an open or laparoscopic (keyhole) surgery.
Your surgeon may approach your spine from the back, abdomen or neck, depending on the area to be treated.
In spinal fusion, a piece of bone, taken from other parts of the body or donated from a bone bank is transplanted between the adjacent vertebrae. Screws, plates, or cages may be used with the bone graft to help hold the spine.
During the surgery, your surgeon performs a discectomy where a portion of the diseased or damaged disc material is removed. After the removal the roof of the vertebra will be trimmed or removed to relieve the pressure on the nerve and this procedure is called as laminectomy. Following laminectomy, the bone graft (small chips of bone) will be placed alongside of the vertebrae between the vertebrae to be fused. Screws are placed into the vertebrae to be fused. Rods are attached to connect the screws, to stabilize and hold the bones together while the fusion heals.
Risks and Complications
As with every surgery, lumbar fusion surgery is associated with certain complications and they include:
- Spine infection
- Damage to the spinal nerves
- Loss of sensation
- Problems with bowel or bladder control
- Dislocation of the implant
- Pseudarthrosis, a painful condition occurring as a result of non-healing of the bone effusion, and a false joint grows at the site
- Blood clot formation in the legs
- Pain at the bone graft site