Spinal fusion is surgery to fuse together two vertebrae to eliminate motion between the two vertebrae and to relieve pain. This procedure connects two or more vertebrae together with metal screws and rods so they have a chance to grow together, or fuse.
UPMC neurosurgeons may perform spinal fusion to treat spinal stenosis, spinal injuries, spondylolisthesis, scoliosis, a weak or unstable spine, or a herniated disc. It is usually only offered to patients whose pain and disability are not alleviated with conservative treatments such as pain medication, physical therapy, massage, and rest.
During the procedure, surgeons make an incision in the back or neck to access the spine. In some cases, access may be through the side of the body using the minimally invasive XLIF® procedure. The fusion may be done with bone grafts or with a small metal cage filled with bone graft material. The cage is placed between the spinal bones. The surgeon will implant screws and plates or rods to hold the bones in place to help them fuse together.