I've heard there's a fake ligament that can be used to fuse the spine. It's used instead of a metal plate and screws or a bone graft. What can you tell me about this?

Doctors are trying artificial ligaments in an effort to avoid problems that occur with spinal fusion surgery. The operation is called a graft ligamentoplasty. It's used to hold the spine in place. The first artificial ligament was made of Dacron (a plastic fiber) in 1986. Results of the early studies showed good results with pain relief and spinal stabilization.

The product has been improved and can be used in cases of spinal degeneration. This type of degeneration occurs after disc herniation or as part of the aging process. Ligamentoplasty isn't for everyone. However, it can replace spinal fusion when used in the right patients. It also prevents the spinal segment above or below the problem from degenerating or wearing out.

Graft ligamentoplasty can't completely replace spinal fusion. In a small number of patients, it has been shown to hold the spine steady and keep proper spinal alignment.