I've heard there's a way to tell if fusing the low back will help reduce pain by using screws into the spine. Can you tell me more about this?
A group of researchers in Sweden have tried one method called external pedicular fixation. Screws are placed through the skin into the pedicles of the lumbar vertebrae. The patient is under general anesthesia when this is done.
The pedicles are part of the bone that connects the main body of the vertebra to a separate portion made up of the spinous process and joints. The spinous process is the "back bone" that you feel down your back. Between the vertebral body and the spinous process is a hole for the spinal cord to pass through. The pedicles form two sides of the arch around this hole.
Once the screws are in place, a brace or "frame" is attached on the outside of the body. This device gives the patient a chance to see what a fusion can do. If pain is reduced and function improved, then a fusion is likely going to be helpful.