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How do surgeons use rods in back surgery?

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Quick Answer

Surgeons use plates, screws and rods in spinal fusion surgery to keep the spine stable and promote faster healing, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. The process is referred to as internal fixation and the use of hardware, as well as a back brace in some cases, helps to hold the vertebrae together and increases the rate of success with bone grafting.

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Spinal fusion surgery is used to reduce nerve pain and irritation by creating solid bone between adjoining vertebra in order to reduce movement, according to Spine-health. Rods and pedicle screws are attached to the vertebra in order to stabilize them while an interbody fusion spacer in inserted into the disc space. A bone graft, which usually comes from the patient's pelvic bone, is placed into the space and along the back of the vertebra. The vertebra turns to one long bone as the bone graft heals.

Utilizing multiple hooks and screws and double-rod systems improves the overall shape and curve of the spine, according to WebMD. However, fusion surgery strives to balance the spine and prevent an abnormal curve from getting worse, rather than straighten the spine completely. Spinal fusion surgery procedures are generally similar, although techniques and the types of hardware may vary. The surgeon considers factors such as the patient's age, severity and location of the curve and the patient's preferences when determining his surgical approach.

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