What is a Lumbar Fusion?
A lumbar fusion is a procedure to permanently fuse one or more of the spinal vertebra together. This is performed in conditions where the spine is unstable and causing pain or other symptoms.
Sometimes when the spine is injured, damage prevents causes the joints of the spine to not work properly. When the vertebrae become misaligned or move in irregular ways, this can be very painful and cause leg or back pain. In these cases, a spinal fusion may be the best operation to provide relief.
Depending on the severity and extent of the problem, a minimally invasive procedure may be an appropriate option. For patients with very severe disease, prior surgery, or other conditions, an "open" procedure may be the only operation to treat symptoms.
"Open Lumbar Fusion"
During a traditional or open "posterior lumbar fusion," an incision is made in the center of the spine. All muscle is removed from the bones, so that the "spinous processes" and "laminae" are exposed. "Pedicle screws" are placed into the vertebrae and connected with metal rods. Bone is used in certain places to encourage the remaining vertebrae to fuse together permanently.
In some cases, a "decompression" may be necessary to remove any abnormal bone that is compressing spinal nerves.
An "interbody cage" or "interbody fusion" may be performed. In this procedure, the intervertebral disc is removed and replaced with a metal or plastic "cage" and filled with bone, allowing it to fuse the front of the spine as well.
Minimally Invasive Lumbar Fusion
For some patients, a minimally invasive procedure may be an option. The most common minimally invasive fusion method is an MIS TLIF. This surgery involves less blood loss, less muscle dissection, and most patients will go home the same day or the next day.
Whenever possible, Dr. Bjerke offers his patients this option to allow for a faster recovery. For more information, visit MIS TLIF.