Pedicle Screws in Spinal Fusion

Posted by Lloyd on June 20, 2011
Alternative Medicine

Q.What are pedicle screws? Are there any adverse effects from them?
A.Pedicle screws are a type of device used in spinal fusion, a procedure performed to eliminate abnormal motion between the bones in the spine. The pedicle is an area of the vertebra that lies next to the spinal canal.

A.There are various techniques used to achieve a solid fusion. The simplest is to roughen the bone surfaces, insert a bone graft, then use a back support to limit the motion of the spine while the fusion is taking place. In most cases, though, after the roughening and bone graft, the spine is held together with hardware. This hardware stabilizes the bone until the fusion becomes solid. Various devices are used to do this, including hooks, plates, screws and rods.

The pedicle screws are a type of fixation device that is inserted into the pedicle. This generally provides a more rigid construct than either hook or wire systems. Pedicle screws are useful for stabilizing the spine, correcting scoliosis and stabilizing fractures. They are primarily used in the lumbar spine (lower back). Occasionally they are used in the thoracic spine (chest region), but this is more risky.

A.Although pedicle screws have advantages, they have higher potential complication rates as well. These complications include increased operative time and increased blood loss. There are also potential complications related to improper insertion. When the hole is drilled or the screw inserted, there can be damage to the nerve roots or possibly the spinal cord. In general, though, pedicle screw fixation provides an excellent method for increasing the rate of fusion, and it provides excellent stability. Fusion rates using pedicle screws are higher than fusions without hardware. In the hands of a well-trained spine surgeon, I think that pedicle screws are indeed quite safe.

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