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Spine Fusion, Cervical & Lumbar

At the Advanced Center for Orthopedics and Plastic Surgery, our specialty-trained orthopedic spine surgeon Dr. Warlick is highly skilled in performing cervical and lumbar spinal fusions (also known as neck and back spinal fusions). The Advanced Center for Orthopedics and Plastic Surgery has been performing spinal fusions for more than three decades. That means your spine surgery will be performed by a team whose experience and skill-set is virtually unmatched in Marquette, the surrounding Upper Peninsula, and throughout Northern Michigan. 

Posterior Cervical Fusion

In the posterior approach to cervical fusion (also known as posterior cervical fusion), the spine surgeon creates a small incision along the middle of the back of the neck. Once the muscles and connective tissue are thoroughly pulled back to reach the bone, the surgeon removes the aggravated disc, and bone graft material and screws are positioned along the sides of the vertebrae to ensure healing. The bone graft binds together, forming a new bone mass called a fusion.

Anterior Cervical Fusion

In the anterior approach to cervical fusion (also known as anterior cervical fusion), the spine surgeon creates a one to two-inch incision along the neck crease in the front of the neck. The diseased or damaged disc that is causing pain from pressing on the spinal chord is carefully removed, and a bone graft is placed in the vacant space. At this time, the surgeon may screw a very small metal plate over the bone graft to hold the bones in place while the vertebrae heals.

Lumbar Fusion, Posterior Approach (Posterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion)

In the posterior approach to lumbar fusion (also known as posterior lumbar interbody fusion), the spine surgeon makes a three to six-inch incision down the middle of the lower back. In order to view the vertebra that is to be fused, the surgeon carefully pulls back the muscles that enclose the spine, and removes the arthritic bone and/or irritated disc that is putting pressure on the spinal nerves. Bone grafts are then placed into the empty disc space to realign the vertebral bones. Depending on the patient’s situation, the orthopedic surgeon may also implant a series of titanium screws and rods to the spine for additional support. The bone graft, with the help of the screws and rods, will form a bridge that connects the vertebral bones—this act is called a fusion.

Lumbar Fusion, Anterior Approach (Anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion)

In the anterior approach to lumbar fusion (also known as anterior lumbar interbody fusion), the spine surgeon makes a three to five-inch incision down the center of the stomach. The organs and blood vessels are gently moved to the side in order for the surgeon to easily access the spine without moving the irritated nerves. After the damaged disc is removed, a metal cage implant filled with bone graft material is positioned into the empty disc space. The metal cage, along with screws and rods, help realign the vertebral bones, lifting pressure from the pinched nerve roots.   

Cervical and lumbar spinal fusions are a major surgical procedure that requires the patient to be under general anesthesia. This means you won’t be awake for surgery and will therefore be comfortable and feel no pain. Because spinal fusions typically involve cutting through major muscles to access the affected vertebrae, the patient typically has to undergo a recuperation process involving extensive follow-up care and physical therapy that may last up to several months or more, depending on the patient’s individual situation and what the spine surgeon thinks is best. Often times, the surgeon will recommend wearing a brace in order to maintain spine alignment.

To learn more about what to expect when you undergo cervical or lumbar spinal fusion, please visit our surgery prep and recovery page and interactive videos.

Specialty Reference: 
Spine & Non-Surgical Spine