Sacroiliac (SI) Joint Fusion

Our team has successfully relieved chronic pain in numerous patients through SI joint fusion surgery. Reach out to discover how this procedure can benefit you

What is an Sacroiliac (SI) Joint Fusion?

The Sacroiliac (SI) Joint Fusion procedure is a surgical intervention designed to alleviate chronic pain by stabilizing the sacroiliac joint, where the lower spine meets the pelvis. This condition, often resulting from degenerative diseases, injury, or inflammation, can cause significant discomfort and instability. The procedure involves inserting implants into the joint to encourage the fusion of the sacrum to the iliac bones, thereby minimizing the joint's movement that leads to pain. Performed through a minimally invasive approach, it allows for smaller incisions, reduced recovery times, and generally fewer complications than traditional open surgery.

During the surgery, precise placement of the implants is guided by imaging technology, and bone graft material is typically added to enhance bone growth and ensure stabilization of the joint. As the bone grows around the implants, it creates a permanent fusion, significantly reducing or eliminating pain. SI joint fusion is considered when conservative treatments fail to provide relief, offering a long-term solution for patients suffering from SI joint dysfunction, improving their overall quality of life by diminishing pain and enhancing mobility.

What are the benefits and risks of the Sacroiliac (SI) Joint Fusion procedure?

The Sacroiliac (SI) Joint Fusion procedure offers several benefits for individuals suffering from chronic SI joint dysfunction, but it also carries certain risks, as is the case with any surgical intervention:

Benefits

  • Pain Relief: The primary benefit is significant reduction or elimination of chronic pain associated with SI joint dysfunction, improving the patient's quality of life.
  • Increased Stability: By fusing the sacrum to the iliac bones, the procedure stabilizes the SI joint, reducing its abnormal movement and associated pain.
  • Improved Mobility: Patients often experience improved mobility and function, allowing them to return to daily activities and possibly engage in exercise and work without the limitations imposed by SI joint pain.
  • Minimally Invasive Options: Modern techniques for SI joint fusion are minimally invasive, leading to shorter hospital stays, reduced recovery times, and smaller scars compared to traditional open surgery.
  • Long-term Solution: SI joint fusion is considered a permanent solution to SI joint dysfunction, offering long-lasting relief compared to non-surgical treatments.

Risks

  • Surgical Complications: As with any surgery, there is a risk of complications, such as infection, bleeding, or nerve damage.
  • Implant Issues: There's a potential for problems with the implants, such as malposition, breakage, or migration, which might require additional surgery.
  • Nonunion: There is a risk that the bone does not properly fuse around the implants, known as nonunion, which can result in continued pain or instability.
  • Adjacent Segment Disease: Altering the biomechanics of the SI joint can lead to increased stress on adjacent joints, potentially causing degeneration or pain in those areas over time.
  • Recovery Time: While minimally invasive techniques have reduced recovery times, patients may still experience discomfort, limitations in activity, and the need for physical therapy post-surgery.

It's critical for patients considering SI joint fusion to discuss these potential benefits and risks with a specialist. During a pain management consultation, we will evaluate your specific condition, overall health, and lifestyle to ensure that SI joint fusion is the most appropriate treatment option.

Who is a good candidate for an SI Joint Fusion procedure?

Good candidates for an SI Joint Fusion procedure are individuals suffering from chronic pain attributed to sacroiliac (SI) joint dysfunction that has not responded to non-surgical treatment methods. Here are some specific criteria that help identify suitable candidates:

  • Diagnosed SI Joint Dysfunction: Patients must have a clear diagnosis of SI joint dysfunction, confirmed through physical examination and diagnostic tests (e.g., SI joint injections that temporarily relieve pain).
  • Failed Conservative Treatments: Individuals who have not experienced significant pain relief from conservative treatments, such as physical therapy, pain medications, corticosteroid injections, or SI joint blocks, might be considered for the procedure.
  • Significant Impact on Quality of Life: The SI joint dysfunction should significantly impact the patient's quality of life, limiting their ability to perform daily activities, work, or enjoy leisure activities due to pain.
  • Healthy Enough for Surgery: Candidates should be in good overall health or have controlled comorbidities, making them suitable for undergoing a surgical procedure.
  • No Active Infections or Conditions: Patients should not have active infections or medical conditions that could complicate surgery or the healing process.
  • Understanding and Agreement: A good candidate understands the procedure, its risks and benefits, and is committed to following the post-surgical rehabilitation plan to maximize the chances of a successful outcome.

It's important for potential candidates to undergo a comprehensive evaluation. During an evaluation, we will consider your detailed medical history, physical examination, and imaging studies to ensure that SI joint fusion is the most appropriate treatment option for you.

How is the SI Joint Fusion procedure performed?

Here's an overview of how this procedure is typically performed:

Preoperative Planning

  • Patient Evaluation: A thorough assessment, including imaging studies and possibly diagnostic injections, confirms that SI joint dysfunction is the source of pain.
  • Surgical Planning: The surgeon plans the approach based on the patient’s anatomy and the extent of the dysfunction.
  • Recovery: Patients are monitored for a short period after the procedure before being allowed to go home. Most individuals can resume their normal activities within a day or two, although they may be advised to avoid strenuous activities for a short period.

Surgical Procedure

  • Anesthesia: The procedure is usually performed under general anesthesia, ensuring the patient is comfortable and pain-free throughout the surgery.
  • Incision and Access: A small incision (usually a few centimeters long) is made along the side of the buttock, near the SI joint. The minimally invasive technique involves using specialized instruments to access the SI joint without damaging surrounding tissue.
  • Preparation of the SI Joint: The surgeon prepares the surface of the SI joint, removing any cartilage to create a suitable environment for fusion.
  • Implant Placement: Titanium implants, often filled with a bone graft material to promote bone growth, are inserted across the SI joint. These implants are designed to stabilize the joint and encourage the sacrum and ilium to fuse together.
  • Closure: The incision is closed with sutures or staples, and a dressing is applied.

Postoperative Care

  • Recovery: Patients may be discharged the same day or after a short hospital stay, depending on their condition and the specifics of the surgery.
  • Rehabilitation: Postoperative care includes pain management, physical therapy, and activity modification to promote healing and fusion of the joint.
  • Follow-up: Regular follow-up appointments are necessary to monitor the progress of the fusion and to adjust any rehabilitation plans as needed.

The goal of SI Joint Fusion is to reduce or eliminate pain caused by SI joint dysfunction, allowing patients to return to their daily activities with improved quality of life. The minimally invasive nature of the procedure typically results in less pain and a quicker recovery compared to traditional open surgery methods.

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