Tiger Woods has returned to competing in golf tournaments after a successful lumbar interbody fusion procedure.
When professional golfer Tiger Woods needed a solution to fix his chronic sciatica, he and his physician opted for an anterior lumbar interbody fusion. Previous herniated discs and three previous surgeries caused a severely narrowed lower-back disc. This type of minimally invasive spine surgery helped relieve severe chronic pain.
In general, a spinal fusion is a minimally invasive surgical procedure during which bone graft is placed alongside the affected vertebrae in order to create one solid bone. This fused bone or vertebra helps to stabilize that part of the spine, especially in the lumbar section of the spine.
Candidates For Lumbar Interbody Fusion
When degenerative disc disease, spondylolisthesis, or nerve compression affects one or more of the lumbar vertebrae, patients experience intense pain in the lower back and other parts of the body. Pressure on the nerve root causes radiating pain in the shoulder, arm, hip, thighs, or other areas. The minimally invasive spine surgery that Tiger Woods underwent is often recommended for patients who suffer from segmental instability, osteoarthritis of the spine, spondylolysis, or chronic disc herniations, regardless of previous surgeries.
What Happens During Lumbar Interbody Fusion
The goal of lumbar interbody fusion is to stabilize degenerative joints. A facet screw system is used to bring stability back to the spine. Small incisions, neuromonitoring, and the guidance of a fluoroscope let us insert a tubular dilator to move the muscles and other tissues between the incision and the spine so as not to irritate any nerves or muscles. A retractor and spacer cage is then put in place for removal of disc and/or bone material. The spacer lets the physician fill the area with bone graft or a bone graft substitute, allowing the spine to fuse. Finally, screws and tiny rods are installed to hold the spine in position and promote successful fusion at the site. The retractor is then removed and the small incision closed.
Lumbar interbody fusion allows surgeons to correct lower back conditions without the need for large cuts or damage to healthy back muscles. This procedure enables fast recovery times and less postoperative pain than standard open fusion surgeries.
What To Expect After This Procedure
Patients typically can expect to spend the day in the surgical center for this minimally invasive spine surgery. Most patients are able to go home the same day. The spine stabilizes over a period of 6-24 months as the bones continue to fuse together. Physical therapy should not begin until the surgeon decides the time is appropriate. Upon approval, patients need to work with a physical therapist to keep the lower back mobile without stressing the site of the fusion.
During recovery, the lower back should be kept in as vertical a position as possible at all times. The lumbar should be kept mobile so as to avoid stiffness, however, bending or twisting should be avoided. Patients are permitted to wear a light support brace for up to three weeks if it provides extra pain relief, but using a brace for longer than that is not advisable. This is because the spine needs to strengthen, with walking, swimming, or straight leg exercises as soon as your physician approves. Smoking is discouraged, as it interferes with vascular healing, which is important for bone growth.
At Spine Institute Northwest, we perform this type of minimally invasive procedure for our patients who suffer from chronic pain and require vertebrae stabilization. Contact our offices at 888-712-0318 for a complimentary consultation if you think you are a candidate for this procedure or have other questions concerning minimally invasive spine surgery.