Many patients are looking for a spinal fusion alternative. The surgery is designed to fuse two or more vertebrae. This can be done through the use of rods, pins, screws, and plates (screws and plates are not used in all cases). This procedure can be painful and risky.

What is Spinal Fusion?

Fusion is a process to align two or more bones. The goal of the fusion is to prevent the spinal column from moving and repair bone lost due to certain conditions such as osteoporosis, tumors, and accidents.

What are Some Spinal Fusion Techniques?

There are several types of procedures used in spinal fusion. The two main types are anterior/posterior and lateral. These procedures involve placing one or more spinal rods, screws, plates and pins into the spine to fuse the vertebrae together (sometimes more than one type of device are placed in different locations into different parts). There are some other procedures that can also be used, but these two types are the most common.

Alternatives to Spinal Fusion

The anterior cervical discectomy is one potential alternative to spinal fusion. This process removes the herniated disc from between the vertebrae that it has been pressing on. Decompression is the second type of surgery that might make more sense than a spinal fusion procedure because this procedure also removes pressure from between vertebrae but does not require any hardware replacement. Some doctors may recommend a laminectomy instead of a spinal fusion. This procedure removes the bone spurs, discs or both that are causing pressure against the spinal cord.

Choosing a Spinal Fusion Alternative:

Anterior/Posterior and lateral spinal fusion alternatives have pros and cons. It is important to know what you are getting into before choosing a procedure, especially if your surgeon has told you that it will not cause any serious complications. To decide which procedure to use, it is important to understand the different approaches used in fusion alternatives.

Risks of Spinal Fusion

The risks related to having a spinal fusion are also great. The most common risk is related to the potential for infection at the fusion site, which can cause long-term issues and death in rare instances. There are also potential risks connected with developing arthritic issues around the area that has undergone surgery, and with moving or bending after surgery such as damage to nerves, broken bones and more. There is also always a risk with any type of surgery that you may end up worse off than before you had your spine fused.


Spinal fusion is a common procedure that can be helpful to people who have developed herniated discs, hyper-kyphosis (flexion deformity), and stenosis. However, many times these issues can be solved without the need for surgery. A decompression and laminectomy are two of the most popular alternatives to spinal fusion surgery with lower risks and similar results. Both surgical options can help treat pain, improve mobility, and reduce pressure on the spinal cord in patients who have developed herniated discs, hyper-kyphosis (flexion deformity), or stenosis.