Lumbar spinal fusion is used to treat spinal stenosis, fractures and age-related spinal problems, according to WebMD. It may be required as a subsequent procedure to surgery that was done to treat an injury, a herniated disc, a tumor or an infection. Fusion is sometimes performed by itself, and sometimes accompanies surgery to remove bone and tissue damaging the spine.
Although lumbar fusion is often required to keep the spine stable after injury or infection, other degenerative spinal conditions may be successfully treated with intensive rehabilitation, explains WebMD. Spinal fusion surgery joins two or more vertebrae in the lower back. Replacement bone from the pelvis or a bone bank is inserted between adjoining vertebrae and serves to help new bone grow. Metal implants hold the vertebrae together until new growth occurs.
People with difficult-to-diagnose chronic back pain may not benefit from spinal fusion surgery, notes Mayo Clinic. Fusing vertebrae together changes how the spine works by moving stress to adjacent areas, which may increase the degeneration of nearby vertebrae. Bleeding, infection, blood clots, and injury to nerves or blood vessels in the spine are other potential complications of lumbar fusion. If a piece of bone is removed to serve as the replacement graft, pain at the site of the removal may occur.