Fusion is a surgical technique in which one or more of the vertebrae of the spine are united together (“fused”) so that motion no longer occurs between them.The lack of motion helps to decrease the back pain. Bone grafts are placed around the spine during surgery. The body then heals the grafts over several months – similar to healing a fracture – which joinsthe vertebrae together.

Spinal fusion can help in the correction of deformity (spinal curves) the treatment of instability (spondylolisthesis) or management of painful intervertebral discs (degenerative disc disease).

A spinal decompression is a procedure to remove pressure form compressed (pinched) nerves. This includes removing bone or soft tissue that is causing the pressure on the nerves. Once all the compressed nerves are alleviated of compression, the leg pain usually improves. This removed bone is then used as the bone graft to help the spinal fusion. This procedure (called laminectomy) is often done together with a fusion.

How is a minimally invasive lumbar spinal fusion performed?

There are many surgical approaches and methods available to fuse the spine, and they all involve placement of a bone graft between the vertebrae. The spine may be approached and the graft placed either from the back (posterior approach), from the front (anterior approach) or from the side (lateral approach). Spinal instrumentation (such as metal devices such as screws, rods, hooks, plates, or cages) is placed to support the spine while the bone graft is healing. In a minimally invasive spinal fusion, the traditional midline technique is not used, and small percutaneous incisions are used instead. This allows for less muscle damage and faster recovery.