Spinal fusion myths - back pain, spinal condition, degenerative disc disease.

Myths About Spinal Fusion

Each year, hundreds of thousands of Americans experience severely debilitating low back pain. In many cases, the back pain is the result of a spinal condition, such as degenerative disc disease. Some sufferers are immobilized or have a limited range of motion, often leaving them out of work or unable to perform even the simplest of daily tasks.

By the age of 50, approximately 85 percent of the population will show some evidence of disc degeneration. Degenerative disc disease (DDD) occurs when discs in the spine are damaged or worn, causing pain from the discs themselves, or from bone impinging on the nerve roots or spinal cord.

To treat DDD, surgeons may perform a procedure called spinal fusion which joins two or more vertebrae together to stabilize the vertebrae and alleviate the pain caused by a degenerated disc in the spine. Over the past few years, new products and techniques have dramatically improved the spinal fusion procedure. Bone morphogenetic proteins, such as INFUSE® Bone Graft, and minimally invasive techniques may mean better outcomes for patients.

Despite the success of modern spinal fusion, many myths continue to circulate regarding this procedure.


"Of the many myths regarding lumbar spinal fusions, one of the most common is related to the flexibility of the spine," said Dr. John Peloza, spinal surgeon at the Center for Spine Care in Dallas, TX. "In two-year follow-up data utilizing patient outcome measurements, our fusion patients returned to full activities including professional and Olympic sports."

Adjacent Disc Disease

Some have suggested that fusion surgery at one level may lead to acceleration of the degeneration process meaning patients may need further surgery later on for a different part of the back.

"There is no proof in the literature that spinal fusion actually creates adjacent disc disease," said Dr. Leon Grobler, spinal surgeon at the Arizona Medical Clinic in Sun City, AZ. "It may even be a natural progression, meaning that irrespective of a spinal fusion, the patient will develop disc disease."

Bone Graft from the Hip

It has been reported in several clinical studies that some patients have long-lasting pain from their hip where bone was harvested and transplanted to the spine.

"Bone graft harvested from the pelvic bone can be a source of short-term and long-term post-operative pain," said Dr. Peloza. "Fortunately, the introduction of bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) has eliminated this problem. BMP is a growth factor that attracts immature cells into the fusion site, transforms the cells into bone cells and stimulates the new bone cells to make bone."

Bone morphogenetic protein , the active ingredient in INFUSE® Bone Graft, stimulates the body's ability to form bone, replacing the need for harvesting bone from the hip. A large clinical study, reviewed by the FDA, showed that INFUSE® Bone Graft is just as effective as traditional surgical techniques that use bone from the patient's hip.

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