What is Spinal Fusion?
This is a descriptive term for what is often part of a spinal operation. A fusion is when the moving joint between two bones is removed and the bones become joined up. This has the effect of stiffening the joint that is fused. In the spine, because there are so many mobile joints, the patient may not be aware of stiffness if one or two joints are fused. If more bones are fused in mobile areas of the spine, some stiffness may be noticeable.
Spinal Fusion Techniques
A spinal fusion is commonly carried out as part of a spine operation. The patient’s own bone may be used as a bone graft, sometimes artificial bone is used, or sometimes a metal or other type of material is used as a cage between the bones.
Spinal Fusion in Decompression and Stabilisation
In many operations, such as a spinal decompression, bone is removed to free up the collapsed space around the nerves. As well as a decompression, the spine may be fused to stabilise the spine at that site. Essentially, a solid fusion between two vertebrae means there is no bone-on-bone movement at this level. If abnormal movement has been part of the pain generator, then fusing the spine may sometimes help improve the pain.
Spinal Fusion in Scoliosis Surgery and Alignment
In some operations, such as scoliosis surgery, quite a long area of the spine may be fused to lock it in the corrected and better position. It is important that if spinal fusion is planned, the fusion aims to achieve a normal alignment of the spine. Increasing levels of fusion, particularly in the lumbar or cervical spine, can signify increased risk both during and after the procedure.