When Spinal Fusion Makes Sense

When Spinal Fusion Makes Sense | Todd J. Albert, MD | New York, NYUnderstandably, most people who are experiencing back or neck pain want to resolve this issue. At the same time, there is usually an instinctive apprehension about surgery. The fact is, there are instances when spinal fusion is the most direct path out of a debilitating spinal condition. That being said, one should never hesitate to consult with a reputable spinal surgeon due to the fear that they will be pushed toward surgery. The general order of all things related to the spine is first to try conservative measures aimed at improving function and comfort.

Conservative Care for Spinal Pain

There are some conservative modalities at our fingertips to help patients navigate spinal injuries. Recommendations for conservative care should be based on an accurate diagnosis of the condition. Self-diagnosis is never recommended and is rarely a good idea. While it is beneficial to be informed, it is also necessary to know what you need to be informed about. What we’re saying is, get a formal diagnosis of back pain before moving forward with any conservative treatment. Once you know what is causing pain, you are then better able to advocate for optimal care. Some of the common remedies that may be help reduce back or neck pain include:

  • Rest; bed rests if necessary.
  • Physical therapy to increase the strength and flexibility of the spine.
  • Over-the-counter or prescription medication to reduce inflammation and pain.
  • Alternative therapies such as acupuncture or chiropractic.

The Time for Surgery

Surgery is typically an option only after conservative therapies have been inplace for several weeks or months, with little or no success. Spinal fusion is a surgical procedure that removes a portion of a degenerated disc, or the entire structure, and inserts an artificial structure or bone graft. The new structure that evolves as bone growth occurs is more stable, which should resolve the pain and other symptoms that had existed before surgery.

The techniques used in spinal fusion surgery have advanced over time. In our New York City Hospital for Special Surgery, the bone that we use in spinal fusions is comes from the bone bank. This eliminates the second incision and streamlines the surgical process.

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