When pain or instability occurs in the lower back, the condition may stem from damage or motion between vertebrae. In order to stabilize the spine and prevent future pain, a lumbar fusion may be performed. The fusion of two unstable vertebrae can create one strong bone and provide pain relief in a particular segment of the spine.
Conditions that may require a lumbar fusion include:
- Herniated disc
- Spinal Stenosis
- Bone fracture
- Vertebral misalignment
- Chronic lower back pain
- Spinal weakness or instability
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Spinal deformities
Before proposing lumbar fusion, your doctor at South Florida Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine will use conservative, nonsurgical methods to help alleviate pain and improve healing conditions in the lower portion of the spine. Only about 10 percent of patients with herniated disc issues have enough pain to consider spine surgery after six weeks of conservative treatments.
Your surgeon will help determine if lumbar fusion is best solution based on the condition of your spine.
A majority of patients experience pain relief in their lower back following surgery.
What Is a Lumbar Fusion?
A lumbar fusion will join two or more vertebrae in the lower portion of the spine to create one, strong bone. The procedure is performed through an incision in the back (posterior) of the spine. In the case of a herniated disc, the remaining portions of the damaged disc will be removed and the area between the vertebrae is cleared. A bone, or artificial bone-like material, will be placed between the two affected vertebrae. Hardware such as metal plates or screw will be inserted to secure two vertebrae together. Overtime, the two vertebrae will fuse into one, solid bone. This process typically takes three to six months to fully fuse and heal, though relief can be felt much sooner.
Results and Recovery
The initial recovery process after a lumbar fusion lasts four to six weeks. Be sure to schedule a follow-up appointment with your surgeon two to three weeks after the surgery to monitor the success of the fusion and ask any questions you may have about the healing process.
A back brace may be required during the initial healing process to help stabilize the newly formed vertebrae and limit mobility. Physical therapy exercises will be slowly introduced over several weeks to strengthen the spine and allow patients to adapt to the new structure of the spine.
Lumbar fusion is successful in relieving lower back pain in a majority of patients. Due to the new structure of your vertebrae, a portion of your spine is immobilized and extra strain will be placed on the surrounding areas of the spine. In order to prevent additional damage to the spine, it is essential to follow your physical therapist’s instructions and continue to monitor the spine’s condition with your surgeon.