Spinal fusion is the permanent joining of adjacent vertebrae, ultimately with a bone bridge. It is a technique that has been employed for almost 100 years to deal with painful or unstable spinal conditions.
The last 25 years has seen vast improvements in the success rate of the procedure and in reducing operating time, allowing more extensive procedures and reducing immobility and post-operative hospitalisation.
In most cases, patients can safely begin ambulating out of bed on the first post-operative day.
Spinal fusion is indicated where the spine is rendered unstable by degeneration, as part of the strategy to correct deformity and in some pain syndromes of the spine, typically where the facet joints are a significant contributor.
Spinal fusion techniques may also be necessary where the spine is rendered unstable by trauma or by damage created by tumours.
Spinal fusion operations can involve anterior, lateral, or posterior approaches, and can be performed at any level of the spine.
In some circumstances fusion may be combined with motion sparing strategies, where segments adjacent to the fusion are supported (Dynamic stabilisation) or augmented (disc replacement).