Board Certified Neurosurgeon & Spine Surgeon located in Portland, OR
When neck or back pain doesn’t improve with conservative therapies, it may be time to consider surgery to fix the source of your pain. For some patients, that means spinal fusion. Jeffrey Johnson, MD, at Portland Neurosurgery in Portland, Oregon, has extensive experience performing spinal fusions, but he only recommends the procedure when nonsurgical and other, less invasive, surgical options fail. To learn if your ongoing pain may improve with spinal fusion, call the office or schedule an appointment online.
What is a spinal fusion?
A spinal fusion is a surgical procedure to connect two adjacent vertebrae. Fusing two vertebrae maintains or restores spinal stability and can often alleviate pain, numbness, and weakness caused by certain spine conditions.
Though a spinal fusion prevents movement between the two bones, it affects one small segment of your spine. As a result, the fusion doesn’t have a significant impact on your overall movement. In fact, you can often move better because your pain improves.
When might I need a spinal fusion?
A spinal fusion may be the primary treatment for certain abnormalities in your spine such as foraminal stenosis or congenital abnormalities in your spine. Otherwise, Dr. Johnson only recommends a fusion after all other treatments fail.
Spinal fusions are used for many different problems affecting your cervical spine (neck) and lumbar spine (lower back). You may need a spinal fusion for any of the following conditions:
- Herniated disc
- Degenerative disc disease
- Spinal stenosis
- Compressed nerves
- Traumatic injury
Most of these conditions are first treated with conservative therapies such as physical therapy, medication, injections, or a less invasive surgical procedure. If these therapies are not effective, Dr. Johnson may recommend considering a fusion procedure.
What are the different types of spinal fusions?
Spinal fusions are performed using different techniques and approaches, such as:
- Posterior lumbar fusion
- Anterior cervical fusion
- Posterior cervical fusion
Each approach and technique has different benefits. Dr. Johnson chooses the one that’s best for your condition.
What happens during a spinal fusion?
During a spinal fusion, Dr. Johnson removes the disc between two vertebrae and replaces it with a bone graft that is taken from your own bone or is a synthetic material. As the two vertebrae grow new bone over the graft, they meet in the middle, fuse together, and form a solid bone.
A bone graft will typically be collected using your own bone during the surgery, but sometimes synthetic material is necessary. Since the bone contains living cells, it supports new bone growth. A bone marrow aspiration may also be performed during the surgery to further enhance the growth of new bone.
A fusion cage will also likely be placed between the two vertebrae. This maintains the necessary space where the disc used to be while the bone is fusing together.
If you have chronic neck or back pain, call Portland Neurosurgery to schedule an appointment or use the online booking feature today.