The word “fusion” sounds so scientific, doesn’t it? The dictionary defines “fusion” as the merging of different elements into a union. When the word “fusion” walks side-by-side with the word “spinal,” we have a unique medical procedure designed to alleviate spinal pain and other back problems many people regularly experience.
Everyone is born with joints that are brand new, lacking in the daily wear and tear that, over time, can lead to joint pain. The spine is no stranger to such pain, particularly pain associated with movement. When non-surgical options fail to respond in a positive manner, patients may want to consider certain surgical procedures that may serve to eliminate their consistent pain.
The Web site for the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, www.orthoinfo.aaos.org , describes spinal fusion as “a surgical procedure used to correct problems with the bones (vertebrae) of the back (spine). The spine is stabilized by fusing together two or more vertebrae, using bone grafts and metal rods and screws.”
For what reasons would one consider speaking to his or her physician about spinal fusion surgery? This procedure is used to treat injuries to the vertebrae in the spine. It can be used to stop abnormal spine curvature, resulting from scoliosis or kyphosis. It is also used to address any protrusions or degenerations of the cushioning disc that sits between the vertebrae. Finally, if one’s spine has been weakened or made unstable due to an infection or a tumor, spinal fusion may be an option.
What this procedure essentially does is eliminate the motion between the vertebral segments, which are typically the area of pain in some patients. This procedure can also stop the progression of a spinal deformity, such as scoliosis. While most spinal fusion procedures will reduce some flexibility in the spine, most only involve small segments of and do not limit motion to a great extent.
According to the AAOS web site, bone grafting is the most commonly used material to promote the fusion of the vertebrae. Surgeons will typically use smaller bone pieces placed into the space between the vertebrae to be fused.