Spine Fusion: Episode 83
In this episode: A spine fusion is used to stabilize a single level or multiple levels of the spine. A fusion is most commonly performed on the neck or low back.
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Brief overview of the episode:
Spine fusion is done when there is an unstable segment or segments of the spinal column. Most commonly this is done if there has been trauma, a spondylolithesis or as a correction for scoliosis. In some cases you will see a fusion performed for stenosis, post discectomy or post laminectomy.
Over the last 20 years spine fusions have become more common. This is especially true for the 65 years old and older populations. It is more common for men to have a fusion than women.
The procedure consists of accessing the spine, either from an anterior approach or posterior approach. A series of metal rods and screws or plates and screws is used to stabilize the vertebra. This can be done at one level or multiple levels of the spinal column. In all cases a bone graft or other grafting material will be placed to cause a permanent fixation.
The graft material will usually solidify in 6-10 weeks at which point the metal rods, screws and plate are present for additional support but are no longer the prime immobilizer.
During that 6-10 week period caution must be used to allow the graft material to heal properly. Precautions will always include no bending, lifting or twisting.
The procedures performed will be similar for the cervical, thoracic and lumbar spines. It is uncommon to have a fusion in the thoracic spine though it does occur when necessary. Most spine fusions occur in the cervical and lumbar spines.
As is the case with all surgery but is especially true with spine surgery, this is something that should be done as a last resort. It is important to attempt all appropriate non-surgical treatment options before going “under the knife”.
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