Spinal Fusion and Correction of Previously Failed Fusions


The spine surgeons at The Maryland Spine Center at Mercy in Baltimore are dedicated to diagnosing and treating spine disorders. Patients from Baltimore and across the Mid-Atlantic region seek our surgeons’ expertise when suffering from chronic back pain. Our surgeons are experienced in performing traditional spinal fusion, as well as correcting previously failed fusions.

What are Spinal Fusion and Correction of Previously Failed Fusions?

Spinal fusion is a traditional surgical treatment used to reduce chronic back pain and correct instability and deformity of the spine. A fusion between two spinal vertebrae is similar to a weld between two pieces of metal. After a successful spinal fusion, the two vertebrae are united into one immovable piece of bone. Any joints or discs in the area no longer move, reducing or eliminating pain.

Spinal fusion may be used to treat the following conditions:

The surgeons of The Maryland Spine Center provide expertise in fusions as well as previously failed fusions, which may result in chronic pain and can be very difficult to identify. Solid fusion typically occurs within three months to a year and is monitored with monthly post-operative X-rays. An X-ray may show substantial new fusion bone, but that does not mean the two vertebrae actually have fused into one piece of bone. As a result, it can be thought that a solid fusion has been achieved, when in fact, motion remains and can be one cause of the patient’s persistent pain.

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How is Spinal Fusion performed?

There are a variety of different techniques used to perform spinal fusion, determined by the location of the vertebrae being operated on and the reason for the procedure. Traditional spinal fusion is completed through an incision made by your surgeon to expose the spine. Bone grafts, either from a bone bank or from another area of the patient’s body (typically the pelvis), are then applied to the two vertebrae being fused. Solid fusion typically occurs within three months to a year of surgery. When possible, the surgeons of The Maryland Spine Center utilize minimally invasive techniques when performing spinal fusion.

NEXT: How is a Previously Failed Fusion recognized and corrected? ›
How is a Previously Failed Fusion recognized and corrected?

The surgeons at The Maryland Spine Center at Mercy have described and presented an innovative technique of identifying non-unions, or failed fusions, using CT scans. Described as the “Vacuum Disc Sign,” the presence of air between the vertebrae was found to accurately diagnose a failed fusion.

A failed fusion, or non-union, is treated by improving the biology and biomechanics of the healing environment. Bone morphogenic protein is commonly used to stimulate the local bone cells and rapidly produce new bridging bone. While the bones are healing it is important that they be restricted from moving. Screw implants are used as a form of internal brace to hold the vertebra still while the bone healing takes place. While the screw implants may be removed after healing, this is rarely performed as the implants are generally painless and pose no risk.

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Patient Stories


After years of back and leg pain and having spinal surgery, Margaret now has an increased range of movement and can dance.

The Maryland Spine Center at Mercy - Baltimore, MD

Dan H.

After years of searching Dan finds a surgeon to address his complicated back problems and give him a new, pain-free life.

Meet Our Doctors: Maryland Spine Center
The Maryland Spine Center at Mercy - Baltimore, MD
Mara Vucich, D.O.

Dr. Mara Vucich is a physiatrist, or doctor of physical and rehabilitative medicine, who treats patients with spine conditions including arthritis, spinal stenosis, degeneration of the spine, back and neck strains and disc herniations.

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Patient Story: Disc Herniation
Michele - Mercy Patient

Michele had trouble walking the stairs due to pain from a herniated disc. Minimally invasive surgery helped eliminate her pain.

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