Spinal fixation also known as vertebral fixation is an orthopaedic surgical procedure in which two or more vertebrae (small interlocking bones in the spine) are fused to each other so that they heal into a single solid bone. This is done to restore stability to the spine or eliminate painful motion.
Spinal fusion or fixation is used to relieve or treat symptoms of various spinal problems. It removes mobility between two vertebrae, and although this may decrease flexibility, it is useful for treating spinal disorders which make movement painful. The disorders include:
- Spinal stenosis
- Spinal tumours
- Spinal infections
- Herniated disc
- Degenerative disc disease
- Scoliosis (curvature of the spine)
- Fractured vertebrae which might be making the spinal column unstable
- Kyphosis which is the abnormal rounding of the upper spine
- Spondylolisthesis which is a condition whereby one vertebra slips onto the vertebra below it causing immense pain
- Spinal instability or weakness due to arthritis or infections
Spinal Fixation – Procedure
A spinal fusion procedure may involve a discectomy. A discectomy involves the removal of a disc due to disease or damage. Once the disc is removed it leaves an empty disc space in which bone grafts are placed in order to maintain the right height between the bones. Two vertebrae on either side of the removed disc are used to form a bridge across the bone grafts so as to maintain long-term stability.
When a spinal fusion procedure is performed in the cervical spine together with a discectomy, then it is known as a cervical fusion. It involves removing bone spurs or discs instead of removing a vertebra from the cervical spine which is located in the neck area.
There are several techniques that may be used to fuse the spine as well as different approaches that can be used to reach your spine.
The spine can be approached by your surgeon from the front and this is known as the anterior approach. It requires an incision in the lower abdomen for a spinal fusion or in the neck front for a cervical fusion. Another approach is the posterior approach which is done from the back. The right procedure for a patient mainly depends on the nature and location of the disease in question.
The spinal fixation procedure is performed as follows and under general anaesthesia:
- Bone grafting: This involves small pieces of bones placed into the space between the vertebrae to be fused. This technique is used to stimulate bone healing as it increases bone production and aids the vertebrae heal together into a solid bone. Larger solid pieces can sometimes be used to provide immediate vertebrae structural support. The bone graft used can be either harvested from a cadaver bone or an artificial bone graft can also be used.
- Immobilization: Following bone grafting, the vertebrae needs to be held together so as to aid in the fusion progress. Your surgeon will use, screws, plates and rods to hold the spine still in what is known as internal fixation. This increases the rate of successful healing.
Recovery After Spinal Fixation Procedure
Following the procedure, the patient may need a hospital stay of about three to four days for observation. He or she will be given pain medication and instructions on new ways to move as the mobility will be limited. The patient may also need to wear a brace for proper realignment of the spine. Full recovery may take about three to six months.
At King’s College Hospital Dubai, we focus on offering an exemplary service, from initial consultation through to final diagnosis and treatment and beyond. Our multidisciplinary team of expert doctors, nurses, physio therapists are here to offer tailored management and treatment of your condition, and to answer any questions that you might have throughout your time with us. Whatever you need us for, we’re only a phone-call away.
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