Types of Spinal Fusion Surgery and its Impact

Spinal fusion surgery is a procedure that permanently connects two or more vertebrae in the spine for stability, thereby eliminating mobility. It is intended to mimic the body’s natural mending process for bones. During spinal fusion, your surgeon inserts bone or a bone-like substance between two spinal vertebrae. Metal plates, rods, and screws can be used to keep the vertebrae together until they heal into a solid unit.

Why is Spinal Fusion Surgery done?

Spinal fusion may be recommended by your doctor to treat:

  • Spinal deformities: Spinal fusion can aid in the correction of spinal abnormalities such as sideways spine curvature (scoliosis).
  • Instability or weakening of the spine: If there is irregular or excessive mobility between two vertebrae, your spine may become unstable. This is a common side effect of severe spine arthritis. In such circumstances, spinal fusion can be used to restore spinal stability.
Herniated disc treatment
  • Herniated disc treatment:¬†After removing a damaged (herniated) disc, spinal fusion may be utilised to stabilise the spine.

There are several approaches to approaching the spinal segments and ensuring stability through a fusion operation. Here’s a look at some of the procedures that a spine surgeon might perform.

1. Posterolateral Gutter Fusion

Spine surgery is conducted from the back through an intermediate incision seven to twelve centimetres long in this case. The bone graft is extracted from the pelvis and put on the back of the spine bone before being removed. This location is densely packed with arteries, and the nutrients required for the transplant are delivered via the bloodstream.

This region’s vertebrae serve as a connector for the muscles. These muscles are elevated and put on the graft to create the appropriate pressure and tension for the bone transplant for it to be firmly in place.

2. Posterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion (PLIF)

PLIF surgery, also known as posterior lumbar interbody fusion, is a method of spinal fusion surgery in which the neurosurgeon approaches and repairs the lower (lumbar) spine from the patient’s back (posterior). This is accomplished by removing the intervertebral disc between the two vertebrae, which ordinarily allows the spine to flex and rotate, and replacing it with a bone transplant. Over time, the bone graft cures, connecting the vertebrae and stabilising the spine.

3. Anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion (ALIF)

The surgeon performs this type of spinal fusion surgery from the front of a person’s body. They carefully maneuver through soft tissues and other structures to remove the damaged disc and insert the bone graft between the two vertebral bodies.

4. Anterior/Posterior Spinal Fusion

Anterior/posterior spinal fusion, also known as combined fusion surgery, is a method that involves performing spine surgery from both the front and back.

To further stabilise the spine, some spine surgeons conduct fusion surgery as a combination of anterior and posterior surgery. Surgery on both sides of the spine in the lumbar region has been proven in studies to accelerate fusion. In this approach, the incision is made on both the side and the back of the body.

5. Extreme Lateral Interbody Fusion (XLIF)

The XLIF is a type of interbody fusion in which the disc in the front of the spine is removed and replaced with a bone graft implant to create the conditions for the two vertebrae to fuse together through the disc space. 

The XLIF is one of several spinal fusion alternatives that a surgeon may propose to treat particular forms of lumbar spinal problems such as lumbar degenerative disc disease, spondylolisthesis, scoliosis and deformity, as well as some recurrent lumbar disc herniations and types of lumbar stenosis.

6. Transforaminal Lumbar Interbody Fusion (TLIF) 

TLIF is a type of spine surgery that is done through the rear of the spine. In this procedure, a fusion spacer is initially put between the vertebrae, and subsequently, screws and pedicle rods are used to boost the fusion speed and vertebral immobility. The bone transplant used in this procedure is also derived from the patient’s pelvic bone.

All of these strategies differ, but as previously said, they are all linked by the same fundamental principle. Spinal fusion, which is used to address disorders such as herniated discs and segmental instability, helps to offer pain relief by limiting mobility in the problematic part of the spine.

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