My doctor has advised me to have a spinal fusion at two levels in my lumbar spine. Is there any way to tell ahead of time if this will work?
Doctors in Sweden have tried one method to predict success of spinal fusion. Under general anesthesia, screws are placed into the spine to hold it in place. A brace or external frame are attached to the screws on the outside of the body. The frame is kept in place for one week. Patient’s pain and function are measured before, during, and after this week. Walking distance and speed are the measures of function used. This method doesn’t show how much relief from pain is possible, but it does show if pain and function can be improved. Patients who aren’t helped by the frame don’t have a fusion. Those who do get help and have a fusion often find even better results with the fusion than with the frame. Researchers continue to look for ways to predict success with spinal fusion. The high cost to the patient and to society of a failed surgery makes this a priority.