What are intervertebral cages?
The intervertebral fusion cage is another tool for the spine surgeon to use in helping treat various low back problems. For patients who require fusion surgery to treat degenerative disc disease, the intervertebral fusion cage has been shown to be effective for several reasons, including:
- Low complication rate
- Minimized pain after surgery due to less trauma during surgery
- Shorter hospital stay compared to other types of fusion methods
- Quicker return to daily activities
Who is a good candidate for intervertebral cages?
The cage is not designed to treat all types of spinal problems. You may be a candidate if your pain is from degenerative disc disease with segmental instability.
How intervertebral cages work
The intervertebral fusion cage is a hollow cylinder. The cages are made from various materials including metal or carbon graphite fiber. Doctors place bone graft inside the cylinder. The holes in the cage keep the graft in contact with the bony surface of the vertebrae. This ensures that the bone graft unites with the vertebrae, forming a solid fusion.
Cages can be implanted from the front or back of the spine. Surgery from the back of the spine may be needed to remove bone spurs or a herniated disc into the spinal canal. In these instances, the cages can be implanted from the back, without having to make an additional incision in the patient’s abdomen.
Most often, the cages are put in during surgery through the front of the spine. Working from the front can be done with an open procedure, where a large incision is made through the abdomen. This procedure is being perfected with the use of a laparoscope, a TV camera that allows the doctor to see inside the abdominal cavity while working on the spine. This method only requires a few small incisions, which seems to help patients heal and get moving faster after surgery.
What are the benefits?
The cage helps in several ways. The solid cage separates and holds two vertebrae apart. This makes the opening around the nerve roots bigger, relieving pressure on the nerves. As the vertebrae separate, the ligaments tighten up, reducing instability and mechanical pain. The cage also replaces the problem disc while holding the two vertebrae in position until fusion occurs.