Surgeons for Spinal Fusion Answer Your Questions

November 24th, 2014

 If you have experienced chronic neck pain, your doctor may have brought up the possibility of a spinal fusion surgery to help remedy the problem.  While this specialized surgery can be very effective to resolve issues like arthritis of the spine, abnormal curvatures, or spondylolisthesis, it is not particularly understood  outside the circles of medical professionals.   

The expert team of surgeons for spinal fusion at Rothman Orthopaedic Institute are eager to help you understand the details of this procedure.  By answering questions that are frequently asked to surgeons for spinal fusion, we hope to help patients like you gain confidence and become involved in taking steps to live and feel better.
What is Spinal Fusion Surgery? 
The spine consists of 25 vertebrae, which are donut shaped bones, each separated by a disc of spongy cartilage.  The spine is incredibly complex, an injury or degeneration in different areas of the spine can present symptoms in various other parts of the body, such as the neck, back arms, and/or legs.  
Degenerative diseases or other injury can wear away the cartilage, allowing movement to occur between the vertebrae.  This movement can cause severe pain or further injury to the spine.  Spinal fusion permanently joins segments of the spinal column, limiting this painful and harmful movement.  This fusion is typically created by placing a bone graft between the diseased vertebrae.  
Am I a Candidate for Spinal Fusion Surgery?
Determining whether or not a patient is a candidate for spinal fusion surgery is not a straightforward question.  Rather, surgeons for spinal fusion will take into consideration factors of age, medical history, current health, and other conditions that may affect your level of risk during the surgery.  Another important factor is what previous spinal surgeries you have had; there may be other, more conservative options that your doctor will want to try before turning to spinal fusion. 
What Are the Risks and Benefits of Spinal Fusion Surgery?
The primary benefit of spinal fusion surgery is the reduction of pain.  Because the problematic movement of the vertebrae is resolved, pain and continued injury to the spine is typically remediated.  However, the full extent of the benefits can vary from one person to another, so it is important to talk with your doctor or surgeon about what results you can expect. 
Although spinal fusion surgery with the experts at Rothman Orthopaedic Institute is a trusted procedure, there are always risks when it comes to surgery.  These include blood clots, reactions to medication, and infection.  Additionally, some risks present in spinal surgery include nerve damage and increased wear on the spinal segments above and below the fusion.  Before your procedure, it is important to talk with your doctor about how to minimize your risk for these complications. 
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