What is Sacroiliac Joint Fusion?
An alternative exists to traditional open spine surgery called sacroiliac joint fusion that offers equivalent results with fewer possible risks and complications.
In cases of SI joint dysfunction, chronic moderate to severe pain can be felt in the region of the lower back or the tailbone. There can also be too much or too little movement in the bone: hypermobility and hypomobility, respectively. The pain can feel sharp or dull. It may or may not respond to first-line treatment options like anti-inflammatory medications.
As a minimally-invasive procedure, sacroiliac joint fusion, also known as SI joint stabilization, offers several advantages over standard open spine surgery. These include less pain following the procedure, less blood loss, less damage to the tissue surrounding the incision (as the procedure requires a much smaller incision) and a faster recovery time.
The sacroiliac joint is located in the pelvis and attaches the ilium bone on either side to the spine at the triangular sacral bone, or sacrum, providing stability and support to both.
The SI joint also acts as a shock absorber for the spine. Given there are two ilium bones, one on each side of the pelvis, there are two SI joints in each person’s body.
The wearing and tearing of this joint due to some sort of dysfunction prevents it from being able to adequately perform these duties. The purpose of SI joint stabilization, or fusion, is to restore the sacroiliac joint’s capability to stabilize the pelvis and support the person’s upper body weight.
The method by which SI joint fusion surgery achieves this is to literally fuse the two involved bones: the sacrum and ilium, together.
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Certain instrumentation is typically used in SI joint surgeries, to help hold the joint, and surrounding and supporting joints, in place while the bones proceed to fuse. This instrumentation, often called “spinal hardware” or “implants”, is generally composed of metal, like titanium. Newer technologies, like intra-operative computed tomography, and techniques, like image-guided surgery, have improved the efficiency and safety of SI joint fusion procedures.
Both fusion and open SI surgeries occur in hospital and while the patient is in a medically-induced sleep. Following SI joint fusion surgery, a patient can expect to be using crutches to walk around for the first few weeks. Recovery time can be slower for people who’ve undergone other SI joint fusion surgeries previously and those requiring surgery on both sides of the pelvis rather than just one side.
There are several techniques for performing SI joint fusion surgery nowadays, including the iFuse system in which triangular rods are laid over the SI joint in order to provide the needed stability. Another is the Zyga SImmetry system, using two compression screws instead of rods. For more information on SI joint fusion, call Dr. Jeffrey M. Epstein for a consultation, and start your journey towards lower back and tailbone pain relief.