Instrumentation and Fusion Spinal instrumentation is a generic term for surgical treatments that incorporate the use of screws, rods, cages, plates, and/or cylinders. These are medically designed implants or spinal implants. Fusion simply means the addition of bone (bone graft) and may be used in conjunction with spinal implants. When fusion and implants are combined, it can provide structural support where the spine has failed.
Fusion is similar to concrete (bone grafts) reinforced with steel (instrumentation). When redundant vertebral motion (same repeated action) places constant pressure on surrounding nerves, pain may result. Fusion stops the movement and either eliminates or reduces the pain.
With spinal instrumentation and fusion working together, the patient may be able to get up the day following spinal implant surgeon. Before medically designed implants were available, bone grafting (bone tissue) simply was not enough to provide immediate spinal stability.
In those days, the patient was put into a plaster body cast to hold everything still so the area could fuse. Using implants, the bone actually may grow around the rods and/or other spinal implants … similar to reinforced concrete. Fortunately, patients are no longer placed in plaster casts following back surgery.
Sometimes the physician will order a corset or non-rigid support designed to limit spinal motion. These brace-like supports are intended to restrict movement much like a splint. They are worn on a short-term basis. As soon as an x-ray proves fusion has occurred, the use of the brace may be discontinued.
Some patients fear their spine will be stiff as a board following fusion. However, this is not true. Consider the mechanics of standing up and sitting down. Most of the motion occurs in the hip joints, not in the spine. Fusion will not prohibit the patient from bending over, but it will limit a portion of the spine’s motion.
The trade-off is acceptable because after fusion pain from movement may be eliminated or reduced. Contact our surgeons at Spine Center Atlanta today.