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Lumbar Fusion

What is Lumbar Fusion?

Spinal fusion, also called arthrodesis, is a surgical technique used to join two or more vertebrae (bones) within the spine. Lumbar fusion is the procedure of fusing the vertebrae in the lumbar portion of the spine (lower back). A piece of bone, taken from other parts of the body or donated from a bone bank is transplanted between the adjacent vertebrae. Screws, plates, or cages may be used with the bone graft to help hold the spine.

Indications of Lumbar Fusion

Lumbar fusion surgery may be performed to treat spondylolisthesis (slipping of the spine bones), degenerated discs, scoliosis or kyphosis (abnormal curvature of the spine), spinal infections or tumors, traumatic injury of the spine, recurrent disc herniation and unstable spine.

Lumbar Fusion Procedure

  • Lumbar fusion can be performed as an open or laparoscopic (keyhole) surgery.
  • Your surgeon may approach your spine from the back, abdomen or neck, depending on the area to be treated.
  • During the surgery, your surgeon performs a discectomy, where a portion of the diseased or damaged disc material is removed.
  • Next, a laminectomy is performed. The roof of the vertebra will be trimmed or removed to relieve pressure on the nerve.
  • Following laminectomy, the bone graft (small chips of bone) will be placed between the vertebrae.
  • Screws and rods are placed into the vertebrae to support the graft and promote the fusion of the vertebrae.

Risks and Complications of Lumbar Fusion

As with every surgery, lumbar fusion surgery may be associated with certain complications which include:

  • Spine infection
  • Damage to the spinal nerves
  • Loss of sensation
  • Problems with bowel or bladder control
  • Dislocation of the implant
  • Pseudarthrosis, a painful condition occurring because of non-healing of the bone effusion, and the development of a false joint at the site
  • Blood clot formation in the legs
  • Pain at the bone graft site
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