The Spine

Posterolateral Lumbar Fusion

Treatment Options:

Posterolateral Lumbar Fusion

Posterolateral lumbar fusion is spine surgery that involves placing bone graft between elements in the back, or posterior, of the spine, leaving the disc space intact. The procedure may be performed using minimally invasive surgical techniques.

What Is Posterolateral Lumbar Fusion?

A posterolateral fusion operation is similar to a posterior lumbar interbody fusion (PLIF); however, instead of removing the disc space and replacing it with a bone graft, the disc space remains intact and the bone graft is placed between the transverse processes in the back of the spine. This allows the bone to heal and stabilizes the spine from the transverse process of one vertebra to the transverse process of the next vertebra.

In a posterolateral fusion, pedicle screws and rods also may be implanted to stabilize the spine until the bone graft heals. A single-level fusion fuses two vertebrae and usually uses four screws and two rods. A two-level fusion fuses three vertebrae and uses six screws and two rods.

Traditional, open spine surgery involves cutting or stripping the muscles from the spine. Today, a posterolateral fusion can be performed using minimally invasive spine surgery, a treatment that involves a smaller incision and muscle dilation, allowing the surgeon to gently separate the muscles surrounding the spine rather than cutting them.

Why Do I Need This Procedure?

A posterolateral fusion may be recommended as a surgical treatment option for patients with a condition causing spinal instability, such as degenerative disc disease, spondylolisthesis or spinal stenosis, that has not responded to conservative treatment measures (rest, physical therapy or medication). The symptoms of spinal instability may include pain, numbness and/or muscle weakness.

Your surgeon will take a number of factors into consideration before recommending posterolateral fusion, including the condition to be treated, your age, health and lifestyle and your anticipated level of activity following surgery. Please discuss this treatment option thoroughly with your spinal care provider.

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