Spinal fusion is surgery to join together two or more bones in the spine (called the vertebrae) so there is no movement between them. Spinal fusion may be done when a patient with a herniated (slipped) disc has severe symptoms or when symptoms have not responded to conservative treatment with medications, physical therapy, or steroid injections. Spinal fusion may also be done as part of osteoporosis treatment for patients who have fractured vertebra due to osteoporosis or as treatment for patients who have otherwise injured or fractured vertebrae. The surgery is also sometimes performed as part of scoliosis treatment or in patients who have weak or unstable spines caused by infections or tumors.
In spinal fusion, the surgeon uses a graft (implanted tissue) such as bone to hold (or fuse) the bones together permanently. The surgeon may place the bone graft material over the back part of the spine or between the vertebrae, or may use a special cage packed with bone graft material placed between the vertebrae. Rods, screws or plates are often also used in spinal fusion surgery to keep the vertebrae from moving until the bone grafts are fully healed. Other surgery, such as a discectomy (disc removal) or laminectomy (vertebrae removal), is almost always done before spinal fusion.
Patients who are considering spinal fusion surgery can find comprehensive care at the Orthopaedic Spine Service or the Department of Neurosurgery's Spine Surgery Service at Brigham and Women's Hospital.
Spinal fusion and other orthopaedic services at Brigham and Women's Hospital
Spine specialists at the Brigham and Women's Orthopaedic Spine Service provide comprehensive medical and surgical treatment for patients with spine disorders, including rheumatoid arthritis treatment and osteoarthritis therapy. Our spine team includes spine surgeons, spine physiatrists and pain management specialists who accurately diagnose patients and provide a complete range of surgical and non-surgical treatment options.
The Department of Neurosurgery's Spine Surgery Service also provides comprehensive patient care for the full spectrum of spinal disorders, ranging from herniated discs to complex spinal reconstruction for tumors and deformity.
A wide array of innovative procedures is available at Brigham and Women's Hospital for the full range of spinal problems. Minimally invasive surgical techniques, while not possible for all spine conditions, may be an option for many patients, even those who need spinal fusion surgery. Our spine surgeons are expert at performing minimally invasive spine surgery, which uses smaller incisions and results in lower risk of infection, less blood loss and faster recovery times. We also offer minimally invasive procedures for a wide range of orthopaedic conditions, including knee replacement surgery.