Spinal Fusion the Best Treatment for Spondylolisthesis?

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Spinal Fusion the Best Treatment for Spondylolisthesis?

Back pain and problems with your spine can be challenging to diagnose and treat and can be a little intimidating and scary as a patient. You want to resolve the issue and resume all your daily activities without discomfort but sometimes aren’t sure what the best treatment option is. If you count yourself among the four out of five Americans who experience back pain, you are all too familiar with this dilemma

We understand, says our own Neil Bhamb, MD. Our practice takes a holistic approach to spine health. We help our patients navigate all the options, from conservative measures to endoscopic and minimally invasive spine surgery, to find the best choice for their specific issue. 

This blog reviews spondylolisthesis, a spine instability issue, and explains when spinal fusion is your best treatment option.

 Spondylolisthesis explained

Let’s start this discussion with a quick review of the anatomy of the spine. The spine extends from the neck to the lower back and consists of 24 separate bones called vertebrae, plus a triangular bone called the sacrum and the coccyx or tailbone. Between each vertebra are flat, round discs made of a jelly-like substance that cushions your spine.

Spondylolisthesis is a condition that results in spine instability caused by the vertebrae moving more than they should. Due to a genetic problem, an accident, or an overuse issue, a vertebra shifts out of place and moves onto the vertebra below. This shifting may create pressure on a nerve, which may result in lower back or leg pain.

Spondylolisthesis may sometimes be confused with a related condition called spondylolysis. Both conditions may result in lower back pain, although spondylolysis is a crack or stress fracture in the vertebrae. In some cases, spondylolysis causes spondylolisthesis when the fracture triggers slipping or shifting of the vertebrae. Spondylolisthesis and spondylolysis occur in about 4% to 6% of the general adult population.

 Remarkably, some patients with spondylolisthesis are asymptomatic and go undiagnosed until they get an X-ray for an unrelated condition or injury. The common symptoms of spondylolisthesis include lower back pain that feels like a muscle strain or pain that radiates from the buttocks to the back of the thighs. Typically, the pain worsens with activity and lessens with rest.

A broad range of treatment options

Treatment for spondylolisthesis ranges from conservative, non-surgical measures such as giving your lower back a little TLC by resting and avoiding strenuous exercise for a while. Other non-surgical treatment options include physical therapy, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and bracing.

When conservative measures fail or if the patient suffers from severe spondylolisthesis, also known as high-grade spondylolisthesis, Dr. Bhamb may recommend surgery to stabilize the spine and prevent further slippage.


Spinal fusion stabilizes and stops further progression
Spinal fusion, known as spine fusion, is a surgical procedure that is commonly performed to treat spondylolisthesis and can address herniated discs.

Spinal fusion is typically performed under general anesthesia and may take several hours to complete.

 Whenever possible, Dr. Bhamb uses minimally invasive spine surgery techniques to complete spine surgery but bases the final surgical plan and specific techniques used on the reason for your surgery and factors like your general health, age, and weight.

Spinal fusion plays out after administering anesthesia; Dr. Bhamb fuses or connects two or more vertebrae. This fusing process prevents movement, which helps relieve pain by preventing nerve compression, but you also lose range of motion in the fused part of your spine.

Although every patient heals at a different rate, patients can expect to typically spend two to four days in the hospital after their spinal fusion surgery. If you don’t work in a strenuous occupation, patients can usually return to work in about four to six weeks. Resuming more physical activities can take up to about three months.

 If you suffer from low back pain or spondylolisthesis and want to know if spinal fusion is best for you, schedule an evaluation with Dr. Bhamb at our Century City or Marina Del Rey office. Call or book your appointment online today.