What is Spinal Fusion?
Lumbar Spinal Fusion
Spinal fusion is surgery to permanently connect two or more vertebrae in your spine, eliminating motion between them, to improve stability, correct a deformity or reduce pain. Some of the most common signs that something may be wrong is lower back pain or pain in the legs, buttocks or calves when standing or walking.
If you’ve been experiencing recurring back pain, your first step would be talking to your primary care physician. If they suspect a spinal problem, like spinal stenosis, they’ll order images such as an MRI or an x-ray.
- MRI – an MRI could reveal spinal stenosis, a narrowing of the open spaces within your spine which can put pressure on your spinal cord and the nerves that travel through the spine.
- X-ray – an x-ray could reveal spondylolisthesis, a spinal disorder where one vertebra slips forward and onto the vertebra below it and causes instability and pain.
Not all back pain or spinal disorders will lead to surgery or spinal fusion, but your primary care will refer you to a surgeon if that is the best treatment option.
Dr. Mark Dumonski, an orthopedic surgeon in Greensboro, spoke on Fox 8 House Call about lumbar spinal fusion.
Cervical Spinal Fusion
Neck pain is a common ailment, but it can be a sign of a problem in the spine. Neck pain moving into the shoulder, arm or hand, as well as weakness or numbness in the areas of pain can be a sign of a pinched nerve in your neck. If you experience weakness that affects your legs, bowels or bladder, it’s important to make an appointment with your primary care provider as soon as possible, since this can be a sign of a severe problem. Pinched nerves can be caused by a herniated disc or arthritis in the neck.
If your physician suspects a spinal problem, they may recommend diagnostic tests and a few non-invasive treatments to start. These can include medication, physical therapy and, in some cases, injections. If none of those treatments help, your primary care will refer you to a surgeon.
Depending on the cause of your neck pain, your surgeon may suggest either disk replacement surgery or spinal fusion. Cervical spinal fusion involves fusing vertebrae in the neck by placing a spacer where the disc originally was and holding it together with metal plates or screws in order to provide stability and strength to the area.
Dr. Benjamin Ditty, a neurosurgeon in Greensboro, spoke on Fox 8 House Call about cervical spinal fusion.
Continuum of Care
Back pain can be debilitating, and can limit you from doing the things you love. In Greensboro, our multidisciplinary team of surgeons, physicians, and rehabilitation specialists are dedicated to making the process smooth for patients: from diagnosis to rehab.
To help enhance patient care, our program focuses on patient education from beginning to end. Before surgery, patients will receive education about the type of surgery they’ll be having, the hospital environment and what to expect before and after the surgery takes place. They have access to their physician, surgeon and a rehab specialist in case they have questions. Recovery from spinal surgery can be long, but it’s worth the hard work! Your physicians and rehab specialists want you to be prepared for the time it will take to get back to normal activity.
The best outcomes happen when patients and physicians work together as partners. Your physicians’ goal is to help you get back to a better quality of life than you had before surgery, but it does take time to heal. They want to make a lasting difference in your life, and they work to tailor each patient’s care plan to their specific needs.
Dr. Kyle Cabbell, a neurosurgeon in Greensboro, spoke on Fox 8 House Call about how the multidisciplinary team at Cone Health cares for surgery patients from start to finish.