Spinal Fusion

For those who suffer from pain caused by spinal conditions, Providence offers low-risk and well-established surgical procedures like spinal fusion. Spinal fusion can relieve back pain caused by conditions such as spinal fractures, spinal disc disease and stenosis, as well as deformities such as scoliosis and kyphosis.

Spinal fusion is a neurological and orthopedic surgical procedure that merges two vertebrae in the spine into a single configuration. Different techniques are used to combine the vertebrae, but the body uses its natural healing factors to fuse them over time.

Human spines are made up of 33 vertebrae, 24 of which are separated by intervertebral discs that work as cushions or shock absorbers for our backs. Abnormalities such as disc degeneration, bone spurs, fractured vertebrae, scoliosis and other spinal deformities, can often lead to abnormal motions that cause back and or leg pain.

In order to eliminate these abnormal motions, surgical treatments like spinal fusion attempt to join vertebrae. Fusing vertebrae initiates new bone growth between the affected vertebra, effectively reducing spinal mobility and pain.

In general, the procedure induces new bone growth into the space between the transverse processes (posterolateral fusion) or the vertebral bodies (anterior inter-body fusion).

There are different approaches to spinal fusion surgery. The spinal column may be surgically approached via an incision from the back or through the abdomen, depending on whether the front or the back side of the spine needs treatment. All approaches require general anesthesia, a catheter and a breathing tube.

The anterior inter-body technique approaches the vertebral bodies via an incision in the patient’s abdomen. The surgeon first removes the spinal disc between the affected vertebrae. Then, a femoral ring or cylindrical cage, is placed between the two vertebral bodies using bone graft obtained from the patient’s hip (iliac crest). If fusion is successful, motion between the vertebrae will stop and any pain caused by abnormal motion between those vertebrae will no longer exist.

The posterior approach, sometimes referred to as a posterolateral fusion, is performed from an incision made in the back. Instead of inserting bone graft between the vertebral bodies, the posterior approach inserts the graft between the transverse processes and often uses screws and rods to keep the spine from moving, allowing it to fuse over time.

Some patients stay as little as one night after surgery, depending on their condition. Your team of physical and occupational therapists at Providence will work with you to ensure the recovery process is as comfortable as possible. Our compassionate nurses will help you stand and walk during your first few days of recovery and monitor your progress with comfort and care.

Spinal fusion is one of the most widely endorsed treatments for spinal conditions and has a low risk of complication. Still, as with any surgery, some risks and complications may arise. These include infection, blood clots in the spine, possible nerve damage, bone graft complications if taken from a donor, and pseudoarthrosis.

When you partner with Providence for your surgery, you can rest easy knowing your team of orthopedic and neurosurgeons have the skill and experience necessary to reduce your risk of complication.