Spine Fusions: What You Need To Know

Spine Fusions: What You Need To Know

When you think about your back, you most likely think of it as a unit; the sum of its parts. But when you’re in pain, it’s as if you can feel each and every structure in your spine when you bend and move. Simple activities like getting out of bed in the morning, sitting at your desk, or just walking can be excruciating.

For many people, a diagnosed spine condition is holding them back from living their best life. Some spine conditions can be addressed with a spinal fusion. The most common spine conditions treated with a spinal fusion at Oasis Orthopedic & Spine include: 

What is a Spinal Fusion? 

A spinal fusion is the fusion of two vertebrae bones in your spine. Spinal fusion surgeries consist of removing the damaged disc in your spine and replacing it with a bone graft and cage to hold the graft in place. 

Over time the bone graft will mimic the normal healing process to form a single bone, thus connecting the two vertebrae that previously sandwiched the damaged disc. 

What Does a Spinal Fusion Do?

This type of procedure reduces, or fully stops, painful movement while restoring alignment and stability to your spine. It can also prevent further damage to nearby nerves and other soft tissues. Spinal fusions are often used to: 

  • Prevent painful movement
  • Re-stabilize the spine
  • Decompress or remove the pressure from the spinal cord and nerves
  • Prevent further damage to the spine and surrounding soft tissues
  • Reduce pain and nerve irritation
  • Correct spinal deformity

What Are The Most Common Types of Spinal Fusion? 

Like all spine surgeries performed at Oasis Orthopedic & Spine, a surgical procedure is not the first solution in your journey to a pain free life. We always exhaust conservative, non-surgical treatments before turning to surgical treatment. 

If your back pain has not improved, or has worsened, with extensive conservative treatments, you could be a candidate for a spinal fusion. The 4 most common spinal fusion surgeries are: 

  • Anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion
  • Lateral Lumbar Interbody Fusion
  • Posterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion
  • Transforaminal Lumbar Interbody Fusion

Each of these spinal fusion surgeries can help you reach your goal of living a pain-free life. But each surgery involves a different approach to reach this pain-free goal. Oasis orthopedic surgeon Dr. Sujal Patel breaks down these spinal fusion surgeries to help you understand each fusion approach. 

What is an Anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion (ALIF)?

Anterior lumbar interbody fusions remove all or part of a damaged disc from the spine by accessing the damaged disc from the front of your body. This approach allows the back muscles and nerves to remain undisturbed. Then the vertebrae are fused together to give the spine stability.

“Anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusions are performed by going through the belly. This approach gives the surgeon greater access to the disc that has degenerated or herniated.  Usually, a vascular surgeon helps with the access to the disc base.  Once there, I remove the whole disc and put in a large inner body cage with bone graft to fuse that vertebrae that surrounded the removed disc.“ — Dr. Patel

Learn more about ALIFs and why they are used here.

What is a Lateral Lumbar Interbody Fusion (XLIF)?

Lateral Lumbar Interbody Fusions access the damaged disc from the side of your body, rather than the front or back. The damaged disc is removed and replaced with a cage and bone graft to decompress the spinal cord and nerves, re-stabilize the spine, and prevent further movement and degeneration at the joints in question. 

A lateral lumbar interbody fusion is similar to the anterior but with a different approach. When you have a lateral interbody fusion you can dilate the hip flexor muscles to access this space.”  — Dr. Patel

Learn more about XLIFs and why they are used here. 

What is a Posterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion (PLIF)?

Posterior Lumbar Interbody Fusions are used to remove pain-causing, damaged spinal discs through the back of your body. The damaged disc is replaced with bone graft material allowing the bones to grow together. 

Posterior lumbar interbody fusions traditionally involve removing a disc by moving the nerves over, shifting them over to one side to place the cage. Another type of posterior fusion is where you don’t remove the disc and you’re laying bone graft on both sides of the lower back; you don’t touch the disc space.” — Dr. Patel

Learn more about PLIFs and why they are used here. 

What is a Transforaminal Lumbar Interbody Fusions (TLIF)?

In a Transforaminal Lumbar Interbody Fusion, your orthopedic surgeon will access the damaged area from your back by removing the facet joint. This allows the bone graft material to be delivered with less risk to the spinal cord. 

In a transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion, you’re removing a facet joint on one side, and you’re accessing the damaged disc just off midline. You’re leaving everything intact in the middle on the back. You can then use the removed facet joint for the fusion surface.” — Dr. Patel

Learn more about TLIFs and why they are used here. 

Putting It all Together 

Your orthopedic surgeon will review your diagnosis, medical history, and recent conservative (non-surgical) treatments to determine the best spinal fusion for your specific situation. The orthopedic surgeons at Oasis Orthopedic & Spine use a minimally invasive approach with spinal fusions. 

This means you experience less bleeding, less scarring, less damage to surrounding tissue, and a faster recovery. With minimally invasive spinal surgeries, such as a spinal fusion, you can go home on the same day as your procedure. 

If you think you might be a candidate for a spinal fusion procedure at Oasis Orthopedic & Spine, try our treatment finder below.




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