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Spinal Fusion: The Procedure
How is fusion surgery performed?
The main goal of spinal fusion surgery is to stop the motion at one or more painful vertebra/e and disc/s, in order to reduce or eliminate back pain.
Surgeons perform the vast majority of these procedures from a posterior approach, that is, through an incision in the back. The incision reaches the spinous processes, the bony projections off the back of the vertebrae. The surgeon then moves aside the muscles along the spine and reaches the lamina, the protective bone over the back surface of the spinal cord. The surgeon first removes any pressure from nearby nerves. This may involve removing part or all of the lamina, taking out any disc fragments, or scraping off nearby bone spurs. In this procedure, called “decompression”, the nerves inside the spinal canal are relieved of additional tension and pressure.
To prepare the area for fusion, the surgeon shaves a layer of bone off the back surfaces of the spinal column and lays over it small strips of bone. This is called a bone graft. The graft is either taken from the pelvic bone and sometime from pieces of bone that were removed in the process of decompression.
To ensure that the spine is held in a proper healing position for fusion to occur, the surgeon uses fixation devices such as pedicle screws and rods, to keep the bones in place. These devices hold together the vertebrae to be fused and prevent them from moving. The less motion there is between two bones trying to heal, the higher the chance they will successfully fuse. The use of fixation devices has increased the success rate of spinal fusion procedures considerably.
Technically, fusion surgery entails insertion of two pedicle screws through the pedicles (right and left) of each of the affected vertebrae. The heads of the screws are then connected to each other by two rods (or plates) on each side of the spinal column. Finally, bone strips are placed alongside each of the two rods, and in contact with intact bone. These bone grafts alongside the rods stimulate the growth of a bony bridge along the rods, and thus reinforce the ultimate stability of the fused segment of the spinal column.
The main goal of spinal fusion surgery is to eliminate back pain due to spine instability, severe degenerative disc disease or fractures, by stopping the motion at one or more painful vertebra/e and disc/s.
Fixation devices such as pedicle screws maintain spinal stability by immobilizing the involved spinal vertebrae, and facilitating the fusion process. The ultimate goal is for patients to be more mobile because their pain has been reduced or eliminated.
The XPED Pedicle Screw SystemTM provides surgeons with a complete spinal fusion system that includes a unique expandable pedicle screw. This expandable screw opens in the vertebra like an umbrella, to provide improved anchoring, or attachment, within your bone – both in the short-term and over time.
Ask your physician about The XPED Pedicle Screw System.
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