Jerry Wade used to love bird-watching with his wife, an avid birder. "I'm not a birder myself, but I like being active and getting out there with her," he says. "Bird-watching puts you into natural areas and some rough terrain -- it's not an easy physical activity."
But in the fall of 2005, the 66-year-old Columbia, Mo., resident, who had retired in 2000 from a career in community development, started noticing "pains and twinges" in his knees. A visit to his doctor in January 2006 brought the diagnosis:...
Joint fusion of the spine is used as a treatment for severe pain caused by a variety of back problems such as a herniated disc or a tumor.
How Is Joint Fusion Surgery Performed?
There are different ways to perform joint fusion surgery:
Bone can be taken from another part of the body or from a bone bank and placed in between the two bones being fused to stimulate the fusion. This is called a bone graft.
Implants of metal plates, screws, or wires can be used to close the joint and position the bones next to each other. Over time, the body heals the bones to become one. Occasionally, a bone graft is needed to aid healing.
What Are the Benefits of Joint Fusion Surgery?
While a fused joint loses flexibility, it can bear weight better, is more stable, and is no longer painful.
What Are the Risks of Joint Fusion Surgery?
The risks associated with joint fusion surgery vary depending upon the person's age, overall health status, and the type of procedure that is being performed. Risks include:
Pain at the site of bone fusion
Failure of the fusion and/or breakage of metal implants