When Is Spinal Fusion Surgery the Best Solution?

Mar 15, 2023
When Is Spinal Fusion Surgery the Best Solution?
Spinal fusion prevents pain by limiting movement between specific bones in the spine. The surgery is a serious step that your doctor may recommend only after other interventions have failed. Here’s when spinal fusion may be your best option.

Low back pain is one of the most common reasons people visit the doctor. About four in every five people will experience lower back pain at some time in their lives. 

Most cases of low back pain resolve with conservative, noninvasive interventions, including rest, physical therapy, medications, chiropractic manipulations, and injections. But when conservative treatments don’t work, you may need spinal fusion surgery to get relief. 

Spinal fusion isn’t limited to the lower spine, either. Your surgeon can perform fusion at the cervical (neck), thoracic (middle), lumbar (low), or sacral (tailbone) areas. 

At Alabama Neurological Surgery & Spine in Birmingham, Alabama, our skilled physicians carefully assess your case and take into account your symptoms, health, and future outcome when determining whether spinal fusion is right for you. Here’s when spinal fusion surgery could be the best solution for your pain. 

About spinal fusion

Spinal fusion surgery connects two or more bones in the spine to limit their movement. When movement is curtailed, pain usually resolves. 

Your surgeon connects the bones using donor bone or bonelike material in the space between the bones. They may also put metal plates, rods, or screws in the area to hold the bones together. This helps the targeted vertebrae fuse together as one bone. 

Reasons for spinal fusion

Spinal fusion can correct the shape of your spine if you have a condition like scoliosis, where the spine curves sideways. The procedure can also help when you have pain due to spinal weakness or instability. You may develop these symptoms as a result of spinal stenosisspinal tumors, infections, or traumatic injury. 

For patients who’ve experienced damage to a spinal disc, the squishy pads that sit between vertebrae to absorb shock, or who have degenerative disc disease, spinal fusion can provide stability and prevent pain. 

Spondylolisthesis, a condition in which one vertebra slips into another, may also be treated with fusion. 

Evaluation process

We carefully assess the reason for your back pain to make sure that spinal fusion surgery is the right solution. Symptoms of SI (sacroiliac) joint dysfunction, facet osteoarthritis, muscle strain, and piriformis syndrome can show symptoms that mimic conditions treatable with spinal fusion — yet these conditions aren’t treated with spinal fusion.

You may undergo imaging tests, like X-ray and MRI, and clinical exams. We also do extensive testing to make sure that the area of the spine we fuse is the area causing the pain. 

Our team can also determine how effective spinal fusion will be in relieving your symptoms. If the effects of the surgery will be mild, it may not be the best course of treatment.

Spinal fusion is not the first treatment

When you have low back pain, we try extensive nonsurgical treatments to help you overcome your pain. It’s only after these treatments fail that we consider spinal fusion surgery. 

Spinal fusion sometimes follows other surgical procedures. These include a discectomy, which involves removing a herniated disc, or a laminectomy, during which your surgeon creates more space for nerves inside the spinal canal. 

If you’re struggling with chronic back pain, explore your treatment options at Alabama Neurological Surgery & Spine. Call our office, or use this website to request an appointment. Our experienced team can recommend the best spine treatments for you to help you alleviate pain.