Category: Spine Surgery | Author: Stefano Sinicropi | Date: September 4, 2014
Pedicle screws are a type of hardware used to provide stability in some spinal fusion surgeries. Some patients (as well as some medical professionals) question the effectiveness and safety of these spine screws. In this article, we will explain what pedicle screws are, what they are used for, and whether or not they are safe.
What are Pedicle Screws?
Pedicle screws are used occasionally in spinal fusions to stabilize and support the vertebrae and surrounding structures as they heal and the bone graft forms. The screws are inserted into two or three adjacent vertebrae and a rod is connected to provide sufficient support while the bone graft is able to grow.
After the fusion has completely healed the screws can either be left in or removed if they cause discomfort or pain to the patient (though this only happens in a small amount of cases – usually the patient can’t feel the screws at all). These screws were initially composed of steel. Now they are typically made of titanium or metal alloys, which are more lightweight and less likely to cause pain in a patient post-op.
There was some initial backlash to the use of pedicle screws in spinal fusions, but they are now fully approved by the FDA and can be helpful when placed by a skilled surgeon. Pedicle screws are considered safe – with low complication rates and low breakage rates.
Other Fusion Options
Pedicle Screws are not used in all fusion surgeries. Spine surgeons can also use plates, wires, and other devices. In other instances, no hardware is used at all. Different spine fusion procedures may be used depending on your specific situation and your surgeon’s experience with certain methods. Talk to your physician about which method will be used in your spine fusion surgery.