The Department of Neurosurgery at Boston Medical Center provides comprehensive surgical treatment of the spine, back and neck. Treatment for brain and spine problems depends on the severity of the problem or injury. For example, immediate surgery may be necessary to determine the extent of a spinal injury, relieve pressure or stabilize a fracture to prevent future deterioration and avoid long-term pain or disability. In addition, patients who suffer from advanced degenerative disease of the spine, as well as scoliosis and other kinds of spine deformities, may require complex spinal fusion operations. Such operations use titanium screws to immobilize joints of the spine that are thought to cause pain through mechanisms such as arthritis or spinal instability. In both cases, bones and joints of the spine are moving abnormally.
The goal of a fusion operation is to reduce such patients' motion-related pain, by locking those bones in place so that the body can convert the abnormally moving joints to solid bone. Only then is the fusion procedure considered successful. Screws and rods must be implanted to prevent motion of the spine while the bony fusion occurs.
Depending on how severe the spine problem is, extensive constructs of multiple screws and rods must sometimes be used. In an iliolumbar fusion, for example, two long rods connect screws in the hip (ileum) bones with those in the tailbone (sacrum) and the bones of the lumbar, or lower spine. Such procedures are performed most often for trauma and severe scoliosis.