A lumbar spinal fusion is a minimally invasive spine surgery performed in the lower back. It permanently connects two or more individual vertebrae in the spine to limit movement.
The spinal fusion mimics the body’s natural healing process following a broken bone. A spinal fusion can also include an interbody fusion, removing the intervertebral disc that is causing the pain.
Studies have shown an 85% patient satisfaction rate following lumbar spine surgery. See how it can benefit you.
By fusing vertebrae, this surgery can correct a deformity, improve stability or reduce back pain. Specifically, lumbar fusion surgery can decrease painful symptoms of the following conditions:
What Types of Spinal Fusion Are Performed in the Back?
Each version of lumbar spinal interbody fusion surgery undergoes a similar procedure — removing vertebrae and replacing them with a bone graft, screws and rods — but is accessed through different areas of the body.
Each specific surgeon has their comfort level and reasons to choose one particular surgical approach over another. Many times it depends on whether there was a previous surgery, or location, anatomical structure and condition of the afflicted spinal segment.
Entering through the midline of the lower back, PLIF is a wide laminectomy, removing a degenerative disc and replacing it with a Polyetheretherketone (PEEK) cage and bone graft to provide spinal stability.
This procedure is similar to PLIF but enters through the abdomen to insert a PEEK cage with a bone graft on the anterior portion of the spine. This can sometimes be performed and followed with posterior instrumentation (screws and rods), called a 360 fusion.
Avoiding the major back muscles this surgical approach enters from the side of your back through the foramen or natural opening where the exiting nerve is located. A unilateral facetectomy is performed allowing access to the front and back of the spinal disc.
Similar to a TLIF surgery, without performing a facetectomy. However, has limitations to access the front and back of the disc.
This procedure is also known as lateral access spine surgery, thus accessing the vertebrae through the patient’s side.
To prepare for a spine fusion surgery, the patient can do a few things to help support a successful fusion and recovery. We recommend:
Prepping the surgical site may involve trimming or shaving the hair around it and cleaning it with an antiseptic to ensure it’s free from excessive bacteria.
The patient will again discuss their medical history with a medical professional, along with any allergies, existing medical conditions or anything that could adversely affect the surgery. These procedures are taken to best ensure patient safety.
The whole surgery is done while the patient is under general anesthesia, so they are unconscious for the entire procedure. The technique used will depend on the location of the affected vertebrae — an anterior or posterior interbody fusion or a combination of the two. No matter the method chosen, the surgery will follow three steps — the incision, decompression and removal of disc, and instrumentation (screws and rods) and lumbar cage packed with bone graft.
An incision is made in the lower back, abdomen or on either side of the spine. The spinal canal is decompressed and disc nucleus is removed. To fuse the vertebrae, the surgeon will place the permanent PEEK cage with a bone graft between two vertebrae, and rods or screws will hold the spine together as the bone graft heals.
The patient may have a two- to three-day hospital stay following surgery. It’s normal to feel some pain and discomfort from the incision site, but this can be managed with pain medications.
Generally, a spinal fusion is a safe procedure. However, as with every procedure, there are some risks to be aware of.
Complete spinal fusion surgery recovery can take several months. Continue reading to learn more about the recovery process through our frequently asked questions.
The patient may feel some stiffness or soreness in their back. Avoid twisting, bending and lifting anything during recovery to reduce the risk of further pain and encourage healing.
It is recommended to wait 24 to 48 hours following surgery before showering. When showering, carefully rinse the incision with soap and water and gently pat it dry.
The patient must wear their back brace following surgery until the first post-operative appointment. The doctor will then assess the recovery and determine whether the back brace is still needed.
The vertebrae may take several months to fuse fully. The back brace is needed to maintain structure and alignment for proper healing.
Recovery time may vary depending on an individual’s job. The patient may return to an administrative position after three to six weeks. However, a more strenuous job will take additional recovery time.
The patient will be walking soon after surgery while in the hospital. More intensive exercises like running or working out should wait for around six weeks if a physical therapist approves.
Physical therapy typically begins six weeks to three months after surgery and continues while at home. It will help strengthen the back, encourage healing and allow the patient to return to their favorite activities.
Contact your doctor if you are feeling signs of infection, such as:
Go to the emergency room if you have:
LEADERS IN MINIMALLY INVASIVE SPINE CARE
1635 E. Myrtle • Suite 400 • Phoenix, AZ 85020
Ph: 602-944-2900 • Fax: 602-944-0064