Fusion spine surgery is an option that seeks to immobilize portions of the spine that normally move but currently create discomfort and pain when doing so. The process involves stabilizing and preventing movement by spinal discs using screws, rods, bone-like material, and cages or spacers. The immediate goal of spinal fusion surgery is to stop the movement of body parts that cause pain, but the ultimate goal is to encourage the body to grow bone in the immobilized area, creating long-lasting stability and relief from discomfort.

The surgery creates the conditions for bone growth to occur and the process is quite lengthy; taking five to six months or longer. Fusion is not a good pain relief choice where uncertainty exists as to the precise source of the pain. Fusion spine surgery should be undertaken only in cases requiring immediate spinal stability or involving spinal fractures, painful discs, spine tumors, and infections.

Finally, fusion surgery provides relief, but does not cure spine pain at the risk of causing other problems. Other parts of the body must compensate for the loss of function and mobility, causing accelerated wear and tear. Fusion spine surgery can create the conditions for improved mobility and quality of life, but the risks should be weighed. For surgery candidates who understand the process’s limitations, it is an appropriate option to consider and discuss with their spine doctors.

Dr. Paul Saiz, MD
NASS Coding Committee member
Las Cruces Orthopaedic Associates
Las Cruces, NM