Spinal fusion surgery is a significant operation that helps patients live with reduced pain levels. It has been a leading practice for treating people with back pain for decades and is well-known across the world. However, neurosurgeons are increasingly turning to alternatives to spinal fusion that are less invasive and have better long-term results. These alternative options allow patients to preserve their mobility while addressing their back pain.  

Learn about the emerging techniques in spinal surgery and the doctors who embrace them. You might discover alternatives to spinal fusion that are better for your specific case and give you hope for the future.  


What Are the Alternatives to Spinal Fusion Surgery?

There are both surgical and non-surgical alternatives to spinal fusion depending on your treatment needs. Most doctors start with non-surgical treatments to see if these less invasive options will help patients. Non-surgical treatments can include heat and cold therapy, physical therapy exercises, medication that addresses pain and inflammation, and even epidural steroid injections. If these treatments work, patients might not need surgery. 

Doctors often seek out alternatives to spinal fusion surgery because this operation comes with limitations. The procedure fuses the vertebrae in your spine together, which reduces your ability to bend, twist, and move comfortably. Alternative surgical options, like artificial disc replacement, preserve this range of motion while also addressing your pain levels.  


Artificial Disc Replacement: The Top Recommendation

Artificial disc replacement (ADR) is currently one of the top surgical alternatives to spinal fusion. With fusion, the surgeon removes the damaged or broken disc and then fuses the affected vertebrae through a bone graft. With disc replacement, the surgeon removes the damaged disc and then replaces it with an artificial model. These artificial discs act just like the natural ones in your body. They will allow you to move comfortably after you complete the healing process. 

Not only does ADR preserve your range of motion, but it is also less invasive. Experienced surgeons can complete the operation in about an hour with a simple one-inch incision. This reduces the patient’s chances of developing an infection and speeds up the healing process.

While ADR is an increasingly preferred alternative to spinal fusion, not every patient is a candidate for this procedure. Your doctor wants to make sure you are in good health before the operation and likely to recover fully in the weeks following the procedure. They might recommend non-surgical options first before moving forward with ADR. 

Why Dr. Lanman is the Best Choice for ADR

Whether you choose to move forward with spinal fusion or alternatives like disc replacement, it’s important that you are confident in the skill and expertise of your spinal surgeon. Working with a leading spinal neurosurgeon can help ensure you feel confident that they are choosing the best possible treatment option for your unique case.

Dr. Todd H. Lanman is a leading spinal neurosurgeon and an expert in diagnosing and treating conditions that cause  back pain. He has over 30 years of experience addressing spinal conditions and is at the forefront of artificial disc replacement. He has seen firsthand how this procedure is more effective than spinal fusion and drives better long-term results for patients. 

You can trust your case with Dr. Lanman. Over the past 20 years, he has published peer-reviewed articles and book chapters on spinal health while also guiding students as an associate clinical professor at UCLA.  


Dynamic Stabilization: A Motion-Preserving Approach

Disc replacement isn’t the only alternative to spinal fusion to consider. Doctors are also embracing dynamic stabilization to support the lumbar spine. This operation is similar to fusion because it doesn’t involve an artificial disc – instead rods and screws are used to prevent the vertebrae from knocking against each other. However, it is more advanced because it allows patients to preserve their range of motion after the healing process is complete. 

Dynamic stabilization could be a good option for patients who are allergic to the materials used in artificial discs. If your body is likely to reject the disc, your doctor might opt for stabilization instead. It prevents patients from going through the fusion process while still protecting the vertebrae in the spine. 


Minimally Invasive Procedures: Precision and Less Disruption 

Your doctor might recommend treatment through minimally invasive spine surgery (MISS) as one of the potential alternatives to spinal fusion. MISS is just as effective as traditional spinal surgery but is designed to minimize risk to the patient. These operations come with faster recovery times because your body goes through less of a shock from the operation. 

MISS occurs when your doctor makes a small incision for access for lumbar spinal surgery or your neck for cervical spinal surgery. Some doctors can also enter your body through a one-inch incision in your side. These incisions allow them to avoid the spinal cord, which can reduce the likelihood of nerve damage and complications from surgery. Smaller, less invasive incisions also heal faster. 

Multiple patients can benefit from minimally invasive procedures. Your doctor might recommend this option if they want you to heal quickly or if a traditional procedure is considered risky for your health. Athletes are also potential candidates for MISS because they need to recover quickly and fully so they can return to the field. 


Spinal Fusion vs. Alternatives

Spinal fusion is a valuable tool for doctors who want to treat patients with back pain, but medical experts increasingly prefer alternative options that are less invasive, have better success rates, and preserve the patient’s range of motion. Here is how spinal fusion compares to other potential outcomes: 

  • Artificial disc replacement: this is a modern alternative to spinal fusion. Patients can preserve their range of motion with artificial discs that act like the natural ones in their bodies. The main challenge is using discs that the body accepts, just like any other implant or medical device. 
  • Dynamic stabilization: if a patient is unable to go through ADR, dynamic stabilization could be a good fit. This operation is still better than fusion because it maintains the patient’s range of motion. This is a new procedure that doctors are still exploring. 
  • Minimally invasive spinal surgery: MISS is also a better alternative to fusion because of its faster recovery time. Patients can return to work faster as their bodies heal. MISS also has similar long-term results as fusion. 

Multiple factors influence a patient’s choice of treatment. One of the biggest concerns is the source of the spinal pain. Patients want to know that surgical treatment will be the best course of action if they want to heal quickly. They also want to know that the procedure will fully address their pain levels. 

Doctors and patients will also consider other factors like the age, overall health, and lifestyle of the patient. All of these elements can impact the recovery process and the success of the operation. Finally, the patient’s personal preferences will help them choose a course of action. Not everyone wants surgery and the risks could outweigh the benefits in their eyes. 

These factors highlight the importance of a personalized approach to treatment decisions. When a doctor works with a patient individually, they can create a tailored plan that supports them from the initial appointment to the final review. 


Consider Alternatives to Spinal Fusion Surgery

If you live with back pain, know that you have alternative options to spinal fusion. It’s important to work with an experienced spine specialist who can look at your unique case and consider both  non-surgical treatments and alternative procedures like disc replacement or dynamic stabilization. These operations will preserve your range of motion while helping you live without pain.

Take the first steps toward treatment by scheduling a consultation with Dr. Lanman. Learn about your options beyond spinal fusion and see what the procedures and recovery timelines look like. When you meet with Dr. Lanman, you can expect personalized care and a knowledgeable surgeon who can explain everything you need to know. 

Dr. Lanman is committed to helping patients determine the best approach for their specific condition. As a Diplomate of the American Board of Neurological Surgery, a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons, and a Fellow of the American Association of Neurological Surgeons (FAANS), he knows that every patient is different and will have a unique road to recovery. Receive the care you deserve by calling Dr. Lanman’s office today. 



What are the most common conditions that warrant spinal surgery?

Most doctors will do their best to avoid spinal surgery, preferring non-invasive alternatives instead. However, you may be a candidate for surgery if you have a severe herniated disc, degenerative disc disease (DDD), or experienced spinal trauma that led to broken or displaced discs. Disc replacement and fusion can address a variety of back problems and reduce patient pain levels.  

How do I know if I’m a candidate for alternative treatments?

Talk to your doctor about all of your options when discussing spinal treatment. Review non-invasive options, spinal fusion, and alternatives like disc replacement. If your doctor doesn’t bring up these options at first, bring them up yourself. They can tell you whether you are a candidate for ADR or similar alternative options. 

Are alternative treatments covered by insurance?

Yes. Many alternative spinal treatments are covered by health insurance. If you are concerned about any coverage gaps, talk to your insurance provider as your doctor develops a treatment plan. 

What is the recovery process like for ADR, dynamic stabilization, and minimally invasive procedures?

Your doctor will walk you through the recovery process following your procedure. However, you will likely have to rest for a few weeks and then limit yourself to light work and low-impact movement for a month or two following the operation. Your doctor will clear you to return to work and other activities once you have fully recovered. 

How can I find a qualified spine surgeon specializing in these alternatives?

Dr. Todd H. Lanman is one of the top spinal surgeons in the country. Working with him is one of the best ways to get the care you need. You can also check the Top Doctors Directory to find trusted spinal surgeons closer to you. These professionals embrace advanced treatments like disc replacement which are often better options than spinal fusion.


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