What Is Spinal Fusion?

What You Need to Know About Spinal Fusion

Spinal Fusion Explained

Spinal fusion is a surgical procedure that is performed to correct problems with the vertebrae. Two or more vertebrae can be fused using bone grafting and metal devices. A newer technique uses a genetically engineered protein to help create a bone graft substitute.

Indications for Spinal Fusion

Spinal fusion may be suggested as a surgical treatment for:

  • spinal vertebrae injuries
  • protrusion and degeneration of the cushion between vertebrae
  • curvature of the spine
  • weak spine caused by injections or tumors

Typically, conservative treatments are tried before spinal fusion -- for example, medications, physical therapy, and bracing.

Goals for Spinal Fusion

The goal of spinal fusion surgery is pain relief. The surgery may leave you with less flexibility and motion in the spine however -- once the vertebrae are fused together.

Prevalence and Need for Spinal Fusion Procedure

An estimated 65 million people in the U.S. have low back pain and degenerative disc disease is the cause in many cases. By age 50, researchers have said that 85% of the population has some disc degeneration.

In 2003, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, 325,000 spinal fusions were performed. About 137,000 spinal fusions were done on the upper spine and 162,000 on the lower spine.

Sources:

Spinal Fusion. Your Orthopaedic Connection. AAOS. September 2007.
http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=a00348

New Spinal Fusion Technique Reduces Pain, Speeds Recovery for Some Patients With Degenerative Disc Disease. University of Maryland Medical Center. January 24, 2003.
http://www.umm.edu/news/releases/spinal_fusion.htm

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