Anterior lumbar fusion is an operation done on the front (the anterior region) of the lower spine. Fusion surgery helps two or more bones grow together into one solid bone. Fusion cages are new devices, essentially hollow screws filled with bone graft, that help the bones of the spine heal together firmly. Surgeons use this procedure when patients have symptoms from disc degeneration, disc herniation, or spinal instability.
What parts of the spine are involved?
Since the surgeon needs to reach the front of the spine, this operation is done through the abdomen. The main structures involved in this procedure are the vertebral bodies and the intervertebral discs. The vertebral bodies are the large blocks of bone that make up the front section of each vertebra. The intervertebral discs are the cushions between each pair of vertebrae. The fusion cages help separate the vertebral bodies, taking pressure off the spinal nerves where they travel from the spinal canal through openings called the neural foramen.
What might go wrong?
As with all major surgical procedures, complications can occur. Some of the most common complications following anterior lumbar fusion with cages include:
- problems with anesthesia
- nerve damage
- blood vessel damage
- problems with the graft or hardware
- ongoing pain
This is not intended to be a complete list of the possible complications.
After the surgery, the patient will normally stay in the hospital between 2 to 5 days. The specific time of stay in the hospital will depend on the patient and the surgeon's specific post-operative treatment plan. The patient will normally be up and walking in the hospital by the end of the first day after the surgery. Your surgeon will have a specific post-operative recovery/exercise plan to help you return to normal life as soon as possible.
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