You may know someone who has had a pin, screw or rod placed in a broken or otherwise damaged bone. Generally, these implants are necessary to hold bone pieces in place while healing occurs. In some cases, they can be removed, but in other cases, they become a permanent part of the patient’s body.
An interbody cage is a type of metal implant used during some spinal fusion surgeries. It stays in place after the healing process is complete, so it will be a permanent part of your body.
What Does an Interbody Cage Do?
During spinal fusion surgery, a bone graft is placed between two (or more) vertebrae. The end goal is for the bone graft to stimulate the patient’s own bone to grow and harden, fusing the two spine segments together. There are various methods of making sure that the graft stays in place, and an interbody cage is one of them. This device acts as a containment device to keep the bone graft where it’s supposed to be. It is shaped and designed to allow the graft to form bone around the cage, acting as a bridge of sorts between the two vertebrae. It also maintains the proper spacing between vertebrae.
Videos of Spinal Fusion
It can be difficult to picture what happens during spinal fusion. Spine-health.com has put together several excellent videos to help patients visualize what will happen during their spinal fusion procedures.
A procedure called Anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion, or ALIF, takes place through an incision in the abdomen. You can watch a (non-graphic) video on this here. You’ll see in the video how the cage fits neatly between the two affected vertebrae.
Another common procedure, the Posterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion, or PLIF, is done through an incision in the back. Here is the (also non-graphic) video for this surgery. This type of procedure can sometimes be done in a minimally invasive way; talk to your spine surgeon about whether this is an option for you.
Having spinal fusion surgery can be an overwhelming experience, but knowing what will happen will take away a lot of your fear and apprehension. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about the procedure, how it will be performed, what your recuperation will look like, and so on. Your spine surgeon wants to help you, and time for answering your questions is built into your consultation appointment.
If you have been told that you need spinal fusion surgery or you think you might be a candidate, please give Dr. Kornel’s office a call at (914) 351-3600. We would be happy to schedule you an appointment for a consultation so you can learn more about interbody cages and spinal fusion.