Lumbar Fusion
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Click here to see a video presentation which describes fusion surgeries and indications.

Lumbar fusions are commonly performed on patients who complain of significant back or neck pain which has not responded to conservative treatment [such as medications, injection, physical therapy, etc]. As fusions are relatively larger surgeries with increased risk factors, fusion surgery should always be considered as a last resort.

Fusions are most commonly used for patients with previous surgeries which have failed, unstable spine, or degenerated spinal segments. Fusions are also used in patients with tumors or fractures.

In order to fuse a spinal level, bone grafts [either from the patient or a cadaver] and some type of metallic holding device [such as screws, cages, etc.] is used.

The bone graft is placed in between the vertebrae and screws or cages are applied to hold the vertebrae together until a solid fusion forms.

The success rate of obtaining a fusion may be as high as 90% or more depending on the surgical approach taken. However, the success rate of pain relief in patients varies dramatically depending on the diagnosis of the patient. As the success rate of fusion is variable, fusions are usually only considered when the patient is completely disabled by their back or neck pain.

In the lumbar spine, vertebrae can be fused by going through the abdomen [ie, removing the disc and placing bone by opening the belly from the front!]. Figure below shows a anterior [front] fusion with cages only.


Fusions can also be performed from the back where screws can be placed. The figure below shows screws [marked by red arrows] and a cage [marked by white arrow] placed into the spine by going through the back side of the patient.


At times, a combination of a front and back approach is used for obtaining a fusion. The figure below shows cadaver bone graft placed from the abdomen [marked by white arrows on the left image] with screws and rods placed from the back side of the patient [marked by the blue and red arrows].

The information contained above is intended for general reference purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice or a medical exam. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional before starting any new treatment. No health information on Spine Specialty Institute, including information about herbal therapies and other dietary supplements, is regulated or evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and therefore the information should not be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease without the supervision of a medical doctor.