Spinal fusion (arthrodesis) is surgery that joins
(fuses) two or more bones so that the joints can no longer move. For people
spinal stenosis, spinal fusion may be done at the same
decompressive laminectomy to help stabilize sections
of the spine where vertebrae have been removed or loosened. Stabilizing the
spine may improve function and relieve pain.
Spinal fusion is major surgery, usually lasting several hours. There
are different methods of spinal fusion.
In the most common method, bone is taken from
elsewhere in your body or obtained from a bone bank. This bone is used to make
a "bridge" between adjacent spinal bones (vertebrae). This "living" bone graft
stimulates the growth of new bone.
In some cases an additional
fusion method (called instrumented fusion) is performed, in which implants
(such as rods, wires, or screws) are secured to the vertebrae to hold them
together until new bone grows between them.
There are a variety of specialized techniques that can be used in
spinal fusion, although the basic procedure is the same. Techniques vary from
what type of bone or implants are used to whether the surgery is done from the
front (anterior) or back (posterior) of the body. The method chosen will depend
on a number of factors, including your age and health condition, the severity
of nerve root compression and associated symptoms, and the expertise of the
Spinal fusion increases the time you are in surgery, the risk of
complications, and the recovery time after surgery. Recovery and restrictions
on activities may last for 6 to 12 months. After a laminectomy and fusion,
spinal stenosis may develop directly above or below a previous fusion. Repeated
surgeries for spinal stenosis increase your risk of complications and
instability in the spine.
Primary Medical Reviewer
William M. Green, MD - Emergency Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer
Robert B. Keller, MD - Orthopedics
February 17, 2010
WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise
February 17, 2010
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