Spinal fusion surgery, which is clinically known as arthrodesis, is a procedure that is used to fuse two or more vertebrae in the lower back, according to WebMD. Spinal fusion is usually used to stabilize the spine following an injury, tumor or infection.
During spinal fusion surgery, bone is harvested from the pelvic bone or obtained from a bone bank and then used to create a bridge between the vertebrae being fused, reports WebMD. Eventually, the grafted bone causes new bone to grow. Metal implants can also be used in the fusion process to hold the vertebrae together until new bone growth is generated to fuse the vertebrae permanently.
In addition to stabilizing the spine, spinal fusion surgery may also be done to remove tissue and bone that are squeezing the spinal nerves or spinal cord or that are causing a narrowing of the spinal canal, notes WebMD. It might also be used to treat fractures or age-related spinal issues such as spinal stenosis or as a follow-up to surgeries to repair herniated discs or other problems.
Several risks are associated with spinal fusion surgery, including blood clots that may cause pulmonary embolism, nerve injury, infection, failure of the fusion, pain at the site of the bone graft and infection, warns WebMD. Getting a second opinion prior to spinal fusion surgery is recommended.