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How Do I Know When It's Time for Spinal Fusion Surgery?

How Do I Know When It's Time for Spinal Fusion Surgery?

Spinal pain affects nearly everybody at some point in their lives. About 80% of American adults experience symptoms from mild aches and strains to severe pain in their spine, anywhere from their neck to their tailbone. If you’re among the millions suffering from spinal pain, there’s hope for a pain-free future. 

At McNulty Spine in Las Vegas and Henderson, Nevada, Patrick S. McNulty, MD, FABSS, FABOS offers comprehensive diagnostic services and a full spectrum of effective treatments. As a double board-certified, award-winning orthopedic spine specialist and surgeon, he leads the field treating spinal deformities, damage, degeneration, and disorders. 

Here, he explains the signs that may indicate spinal fusion surgery.

Other treatments have failed

Although Dr. McNulty specializes in complex spinal surgery, he always considers surgical intervention a last resort. He begins your treatment journey with more conservative, less invasive measures.

After a thorough physical exam, including diagnostic imaging, a complete medical history, and an in-depth discussion with you about your symptoms, activities, and lifestyle, Dr. McNulty develops a treatment plan to alleviate your spinal pain. In many cases, this involves non- or minimally invasive pain management treatments, such as:

You are only considered a candidate for spinal surgery if these measures fail to bring an acceptable level of relief.

You have a condition that responds well to spinal fusion

Spinal fusion permanently cements two or more vertebrae in your spine to prevent painful movement, so it’s only warranted when movement is the source of the pain. Spinal fusion treats specific conditions, including:

Spinal fusion can also address spinal instability caused by severe infection, acute trauma, and tumors.

You’re a good candidate for spinal fusion

Exhausting all conservative treatments and obtaining an accurate diagnosis of a qualifying condition are the first steps, but there are a few more criteria necessary before we consider you a good candidate for spinal fusion. 

First, your pain must be chronic. Spinal fusion isn’t an option until we’ve tried other measures and your pain has lasted six months or longer.

Second, spinal fusion works best when only one or two discs are involved. Spinal fusion would drastically decrease flexibility if we fused discs at multiple points along your spine.

Third, you must be otherwise healthy and capable of undergoing and recovering from surgery. In addition to the absence of infection, disease, and disorders, this means you must be a non-smoker and not significantly overweight.

You’ve made an informed decision

No one is more qualified than Dr. McNulty to diagnose your spinal condition and advise you regarding your treatment options, but ultimately, the decision is yours.

Dr. McNulty explains every aspect of the spinal fusion procedure, why he considers it an option, how he performs it, and what results you can reasonably expect. He also discusses all possible side effects and risks, so you can make an informed decision about your health and future. 

If you decide to undergo spinal fusion, you’re in good hands with Dr. McNulty. He performs every type of the procedure in every region of the spine, from your neck to your pelvis. He uses minimally invasive techniques when possible and harvests your own stem cells as a graft source. Then, he skillfully inserts metal rods and screws that hold your vertebrae together while the graft develops and takes hold. 

After 2-3 weeks, you can move about more freely and start physical therapy to regain full functionality in about 6-12 weeks. The graft continues to develop for three years beyond your surgery, strengthening the bond and allowing you to move without pain.

If you think it may be time to consider spinal fusion, contact us at either of our two locations by phone or online to schedule a consultation with Dr. McNulty. 

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