A typical patient requiring lumbar fusion surgery usually has a trapped nerve root at the side of the spine (foraminal stenosis) due to one vertebra being slipped forwards on another (spondylolisthesis).
On occasion lumbar spine surgery may involve the use of implants such as cages, screws and rods to stabilise and fuse the spine. This is recommended only in a minority of cases and usually where there is pre-existing spinal instability (spondylolisthesis).
Lumbar fusion is not recommended for non-specific low back pain.
As well as an MRI scan of the lumbar spine, patients undergoing assessment for lumbar fusion may also need:
Before lumbar fusion, your surgeon will discuss and recommend non-surgical treatments such as pain relief, physiotherapy and day case steroid injections.
Lumbar fusion is only performed if your symptoms cannot be controlled by other means.
Outcomes for nerve pain are good with 80-90% of patients reporting improvement in symptoms. (Spine Tango data)
Improvement in back pain is less certain and medical literature suggests 50-70% improvement. This is why lumbar fusion is not recommended for non-specific back pain alone.
As with all surgery there is always some risk of complication. These will be discussed prior to going ahead with any procedure. For this type of surgery, risks include:
Data from Spine Tango.