What is Arthrodesis, and When Is It Used?

Arthrodesis is an overarching term for surgeries that fuse together two or more bones or joint bones.

Dr. Ahuja utilizes arthrodesis in spinal fusion surgeries including posterior lumbar interbody fusions. In spinal fusions, surgeons place a bone graft between vertebrae so that new bone grows into that space. These are also known as Posterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion, or PLIF, surgeries.

Generally, spinal fusions are used to reduce or eliminate instability in the back along with associated pain in the lower back and legs. Athrodesis is also commonly used to treat arthritis in the ankle, knee or hip, though Dr. Ahuja’s focus in his Wisconsin practice is on spinal fusions.

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The PLIF is a more traditional “open” type surgery. The MAS® PLIF procedure is a type of less invasive spinal fusion surgery that can result in less post-surgery muscle pain and a quicker recovery for many patients, getting you back on your feet and in good health faster.

Benefits of the MAS® PLIF

MAS® PLIF stands for Maximum Access Surgery Posterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion. The procedure utilizes advanced less invasive surgical techniques that constitute a less disruptive approach to decompressing nerve roots and fusing one or more vertebrae together.

MAS® PLIF requires a smaller incision because there is no need to retract the muscle along the spine. This service can often lead to faster recovery times and less pain than with a traditional PLIF approach.

In addition, the MAS® PLIF has the following benefits:

  • less scarring
  • less blood loss during surgery
  • shorter time in the hospital

Depending on a patient’s exact condition, the MAS® PLIF may or may not be the best option. Dr. Ahuja and the team at Neurosurgery and Endovascular Associates will thoroughly discuss all of your options, identifying which procedures will suit you best and discussing them with you before treatment.

Traditional PLIF Surgery Illustration
MAS PLIF Surgery Illustration

What Is the Recovery Like for MAS® PLIF Surgery?

Patients are usually required to stay in the hospital for 2-3 days after a MAS® PLIF is performed. Patients are observed for any postoperative abnormalities such as fever or severe pain. We will want to monitor you to ensure there are no post-surgery complications or chances of infection.

You may be asked to wear a brace to assist with the process of spinal fusion, and within 24 hours you may be asked to stand, sit or walk (under close supervision by hospital professionals). The brace will be fitted for you before surgery, and after surgery you will be asked to wear it whenever you are out of bed, except in the shower. The hospital staff will assist you to put on your brace, walk, sit, take stairs and take a shower.

After the hospital stay is complete, it will be important to limit your activities and motion for an amount of time determined by Dr. Ahuja and his staff. You’ll receive plenty of instructions on how to care for the incision site, an exercise program, and how to take any pain medications that may be prescribed.