Lumbar spinal fusion is a surgical procedure that permanently joins together two or more spinal bones in your low back. It’s a bit like “welding” multiple bones into one bone, which can provide a permanent solution to a spinal health problem.
Spinal fusions are performed to help stabilize your spine in areas that are damaged or diseased. For instance, if you have a lumbar disc herniation that does not get better with conservative treatment, we may recommend that the injured disc is surgically removed (called a discectomy) followed by insertion of an implant where the disc used to be, and then fusion of the adjacent bones.
During a lumbar fusion, part or all of at least one vertebra needs to be removed, especially if it is injured or putting pressure on a spinal nerve. This is followed by the insertion of a spacer or bone graft that over time will grow and fuse the bones together. We may also use specialized screws, rods, and other implants to help stabilize the bones and bone graft.
Lumbar spinal fusions may also be performed as a surgical treatment of other conditions, including vertebral compression fractures, tumors, and spinal deformities.
Lumbar fusions can be effective for resolving chronic pain in certain patients, but it’s not for everyone. At Indiana Spine Center, our team works carefully with individuals to determine the best course of treatment for managing their spinal health condition. Since many of our patients experience improvements in their condition and quality of life through non-surgical treatment, including chiropractic care, physical therapy, and medication, we typically try to exhaust all conservative options before exploring surgery. If conservative treatment does not help, or if symptoms are severe or worsen over time, we may suggest a lumbar fusion or another kind of permanent surgical solution. This is especially true for people who have a spine problem causing pain and symptoms in the legs (versus just back pain).
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