About the Procedure

Spinal Fusion Surgery

Spinal Fusion Surgery

New Brunswick, NJ- Approximately 80 percent of the population has back pain severe enough to keep them out of work for one day in their lifetime, and more than three-quarters of these people will have recurrent episodes of severe back pain. Most pain is successfully alleviated with non-operative treatments, including rest, medication, physical therapy, chiropractic treatment and pain management techniques. The 5-10 percent of patients who do not respond to these treatments can then be evaluated for possible surgical intervention.

Dr. Steven Reich, an attending orthopaedic surgeon at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, hopes to educate viewers about less invasive surgical procedures for back pain during a live webcast from Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital.

"Back pain usually occurs after strenuous activity and dissipates after a few hours or days," said Dr. Reich, who is also a Clinical Assistant Professor in the Division of Orthopaedic Surgery at UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. "Severe unremitting pain that does not respond to appropriate treatment and prevents an individual from working or performing activities of daily living requires medical attention. In certain circumstances, surgery can be an option."

During this less invasive procedure, called Transforaminal Lumbar Interbody Fusion, or TLIF, Dr. Reich will first remove the pain-causing disc, and then use a piece of the patient's hip bone to fuse the two vertebrae, enabling them to mold together.

Dr. Reich will utilize a special piece of equipment, which he helped to design, during this procedure. This water jet technology device, known as "Spinejet," allows rapid, thorough and safe removal of the disc, leading to a more effective fusion.

Spinal fusion is a process of welding two or more vertebrae of the spine to form a single bone, eliminating pain arising from abnormal motion between adjacent vertebrae. The vertebrae are united using a bone graft from the patient or a bone bank, and they are held in place by a variety of metallic and carbon fiber implants which allow the bones to heal together.

Most patients are out of bed and walking the day after the surgery, typically spending only two days in the hospital. Upon discharge, they are able to care for themselves at home, with the exception of heavy lifting and bending at the waist. Some patients return to work as early as two weeks following the procedure; however, most remain home for 6-10 weeks. Patients with strenuous jobs require a strengthening program before returning to work.


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