Alternatives to Fusion Surgery
Endoscopic laser surgery medical procedures offer an alternative to traditional spinal fusions in an effort to alleviate pain to the lower back (lumbar), upper back (thoracic) and neck (cervical).
Fusion is a traditional surgical technique in which one or more of the vertebrae of the spine are joined together, or fused, in an effort to limit motion between the two vertebrae. In most instances, bone grafts from another area of the body, along with plates and screws, are placed around the spine during surgery. The body then heals the grafts over several months which joins the vertebrae together. While this method can be helpful, there are also complications that can result from a fusion:
- Approximately 25% of all grafts do not take and it is necessary for another fusion to be performed
- Less than 50% of conventional surgeries, including fusions, do not alleviate the pain and symptoms
- Recuperation can be long and painful
- Fusions may cause other spine conditions down the road
As mentioned above, when the spine is fused, you lose mobility in that particular region. The spine is very mobile and fusing vertebrae together causes extreme wear and tear on the vertebrae (and discs) above and below the area of the fusion because they are trying to compensate for that area now immobile. This can cause new herniated discs, bone spurs, foraminal narrowing and spinal stenosis. Additionally, fusions cannot be reversed, and some patients who have them may experience a lifetime of spine problems and surgeries.