Right Candidate for Spinal Fusion Surgery?

Right Candidate for Spinal Fusion Surgery?

Spine fusion surgery involves joining two vertebrae with a bone graft in the back or neck. This particular procedure provides pain relief and restores movement. Thus, improving quality of life. Though the procedure offers many benefits, your spine surgeon will first analyze if you are the right candidate for it.
It is important to note that not all patients require spinal fusion.

Though back pain is a common problem, it can occur as a result of different issues. Your doctor will first advise non-surgical methods like physical therapy, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and core strengthening to relieve your symptoms. If these approaches fail, then spinal fusion may be chosen.

If you are wondering if you are the right candidate for a spinal fusion, read on below:

Am I the best Candidate for Spine Fusion Surgery?

Most spine surgeons advise spinal fusion as a last resort when other treatment options have failed to benefit the patient.

It is not recommended till the patient has received at least  6-12 months of non-surgical treatments. When the conventional treatments fail, then a spinal fusion is considered. Spinal fusion is considered a beneficial procedure for patients suffering from

  • Lumbar degenerative disc disease
  • Lumbar spondylolisthesis
  • Scoliosis
  • Deformities
  • Spinal fractures
  • Weak or unstable spine

Overall, you will be a suitable candidate for spinal fusion,  if you fulfill the following criteria:

  • You haven’t found any relief from your pain even after going for non-surgical treatments.
  • You have been experiencing persistent pain for a long time
  • Your disease is affecting only two vertebrae or discs

How does a Doctor Determine if I am a Good Candidate for Spinal Fusion?

Usually, a doctor will try to find out the root cause of your pain with the help of different diagnostic tests. For instance, MRI tests have improved the accuracy of surgeons in detecting various spine disorders. However, the changes observed on MRI scans can even be due to normal aging and not because of the painful and pathological discs. Thus, it can become difficult for the surgeon to differentiate between a painful disc and an aging disc.

If you feel unsatisfied with the diagnosis or the recommendation of a spinal fusion, it is best to opt for a second opinion with another surgeon. This is important because not all issues with the spine require surgery.

A spine surgeon can also order a CT discogram to determine if the disc is painful.

Before advising spinal fusion to you, the spine surgeon:

Has to be confident about the source of your pain. This will ensure that he or she is fusing the correct vertebrae because fusing incorrect vertebrae that are not causing pain will not have a significant effect on relieving the patient’s symptoms. Thus, not leading to a positive outcome.

Has to rule out that any of the following conditions are not causing back pain as these have similar symptoms as degenerative disc disease:

  • Facet osteoarthritis
  • Piriformis syndrome
  • Sacroiliac joint dysfunction
  • Muscle strain

If back pain and other symptoms have not improved with conventional treatments and the patient doesn’t have any of the above conditions, then a spinal fusion can be recommended.

Has to see how many vertebrae need to be fused. Generally, the surgery works best when two vertebrae have to be fused to improve movement. This is a “one-level fusion” and doesn’t limit your motion. If the surgery is done on more than two levels, you will observe a notable effect on your movement. Due to restrictive motion, it is possible that you feel more pain. Thus, spinal fusions at more than three levels are performed only for patients who have extensive problems in their spine such as severe scoliosis.

Who is not a Good Candidate for a Spinal Fusion?

You may not be a good candidate for spinal fusion under the following scenarios:

  • Your disease affects multiple vertebrae or discs. In such a case,  getting a spinal fusion can lead to a significant loss in spine flexibility.
  • You have been experiencing symptoms like neck pain or back pain for less than 6 months.
  • You have severe infection or illness.
  • The outcome of your spinal fusion surgery can be affected by certain factors like smoking, osteoporosis, steroid use, and malnutrition. It is not always necessary that these habits will eliminate you from getting a spinal fusion but they can have an impact on the results.

Avail Spinal Fusion Surgery Across the World


Ultimately, your doctor will analyze various factors before recommending you for a spinal fusion. However, it is important that you are well aware of the pros and cons of spinal fusion before deciding to go through with it. Additionally, you should also be well aware of the alternative treatment options. Being informed about your options can help you to make an educated decision about your pain.

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Reviewed By :- Dr. Vijita Jayan

Urvi Agrawal

Urvi is an avid reader who is passionate about writing. Having worked in hospital settings like AIIMS, She has experience working as a healthcare writer and has written about many healthcare and medical topics. Besides her role as a content specialist, she likes to spend her time cooking, dancing, and painting. She believes that positive thinking is crucial for being happy.

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