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Spinal Fusion: Anterior Lumbar

Fusing vertebrae in the lumbar curve may help ease lower back and leg pain. Anterior lumbar fusion is done through an incision in your stomach area. Depending on how many vertebrae are fused, the surgery may take from 3 to 8 hours.

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Lumbar vertebrae

The Fusion Procedure

  • The disk is removed from between the vertebrae to be fused.

  • Bone graft is packed into the now-empty space between the vertebrae. In time, the graft and the bone around it grow into one solid unit.

  • To help keep your spine steady and promote fusion, extra support (see below) may be used.

  • The incision is closed with sutures or staples.

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The disk  between the vertebrae is removed.

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Bone graft  is packed into the now-empty space between the vertebrae.

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Over several months,  the bone graft and vertebrae fuse into a solid unit.

If Extra Support Is Needed

Metal supports called instrumentation may be used to help steady your spine while it fuses. These supports are not removed. Your surgeon may use one or more types of support. The most common type of support used with anterior lumbar fusion is a cage. This is a plastic or metal “basket” that is packed with bone graft. It’s inserted into the empty space where the disk was removed. It remains in the body and is not removed.

Online Medical Reviewer: Gilner, Leon I, MD, FACS
Online Medical Reviewer: Ma, C Benjamin, MD
Date Last Reviewed: 3/21/2012
© 2000-2014 Krames StayWell, 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.