Last week a yoga student of mine fell off a ladder and fractured his first lumbar vertebrae. On Monday he underwent a spinal fusion to join together 5 vertebrae, the two above (T11, T12) and the two below (L2, L3). What is a spinal fusion?

With a lumbar fusion, a posterolateral approach is common which means the incision is made from the back. Then a small bone graft (typically taken from the hip or a cadaver) is placed between the transverse process on each side of the vertebrae. The bone grafts assist the vertebra to heal together through the production of new bone tissue into more solid bone mass. After the graft is placed, the vertebrae are immobilized with screws and/or small plates, and often 2 rods are vertically attached to the vertebral pedicles to stabilize the fusion and enhance new bone growth. Often a brace is worn after surgery for up to 3 months when the patient is out of bed.

With a cervical fusion, an interbody fusion is more common, which means the intervertebral disc is removed. There are 4 types of interbody fusions.

http://www.webmd.com/pain-management/video/spinal-fusion
http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=a00348
http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/spinal-fusion/my01235

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