The Lowdown on Low Back Pain
(and Other Aches)


I was told that I need a lumbar fusion from both the front and the back. Why?

Lumbar fusions are operations that correct spinal instability or replace a painful disc. Fusions are major surgeries. Every attempt must be made to improve the chance of success while simultaneously reducing the risks.

A lumbar fusion can be done using a posterior approach (from the back) or an anterior approach (from the front). The best chance of success, and the least invasive option, often includes both an anterior procedure and a posterior operation. This type of fusion, called a “front and back” or a “360 degree” procedure (like a circle), combines two smaller surgeries.

The posterior part of the operation is used to decompress the nerve roots and place stabilizing hardware. It can be done with minimally invasive techniques and takes only an hour to 90 minutes. The anterior portion of the surgery is used to replace the disc with a piece of bone. It is also minimally invasive and usually takes about 45 minutes. This type of fusion is safer than the still experimental total disc replacement.

The two procedures can be done on the same day or on different days. By allowing the patient to recover for a few days between surgeries, the risk of complications is lower, there is less pain, and the recovery is easier.

Even though a lumbar fusion can now be done using minimally invasive techniques, it is still a major operation. Common sense dictates that it should only be considered after all non-surgical options have been exhausted.



The information in this site briefly describes issues related to medical treatments, and has been licensed by from Northern California Neurosurgery Medical Group, Inc., who is solely responsible for said content.  This web site is not a substitute for good medical care or for a consultation with a spine specialist. It should not be used to plan your treatment. The well considered advice of a specialist who has personally examined you is always superior to even the best internet pages.

Copyright © 2007, Northern California Neurosurgery Medical Group. All rights are reserved.  No part of this web site may be reproduced, transmitted, or stored, electronically or on paper, without the written permission of the Northern California Neurosurgery Medical Group, Inc.
Last modified: 07/27/08