How ultrasonic surgery differs from a spinal fusion

12:08 PM, Oct 04, 2019

When you are in the throws of back pain, you probably will do anything for a break. While you likely have your routine down pat, whether it involves lying down, standing in a certain position or rubbing a specific spot, that relief is only temporary.

When it comes to serious pain, you may require surgery.

However, gone are the days when a spinal fusion is your only choice. You can also consider ultrasonic spine surgery, an option that has emerged because of advances in the fields of biomedical engineering, imaging, electronics, and nanotechnology.

Here’s what you should know.

The process

Spinal fusion is basically a welding process, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. It uses bone material, called a bone graft, to encourage proper fusion and stability.

“The basic idea is to fuse together two or more vertebrae so that they heal into a single, solid bone,” the AAOS says. “This is done to eliminate painful motion or to restore stability to the spine.”

Unfortunately, the surgery can cause complications and requires a long recovery time. It also permanently reduces spinal mobility.

Ultrasonic surgery can treat the same conditions that spinal fusion treats — bulging or herniated discs, bone spurs, pinched nerves — with microneurosurgical techniques. Its FDA approved ultrasonic technology offers millimeter-by-millimeter decompression of the spinal cord or nerve roots.

That exactness allows surgeons to remove problematic tissue and bone without compromising the spine’s natural stability.

The tools

The biggest game-changer with the ultrasonic approach is the Misonix BoneScalpel device used in surgery to access the spinal canal. The device can “preserve up to 66% of autograft bone with each cut, when compared to standard techniques,” Misonix reports.

The surgery uses advanced surgical ultrasound energy to sculpt and dissolve bone, so there is less damage to the surgical area.

“The Sonospine® Ultrasonic Spine technique allows our surgeons access to the spinal canal with less disruption of bone, joints, and other tissues,” says Sonospine, a center for ultrasonic spine surgery. “Once at the source of your pain, advanced ultrasonic instruments precisely sculpt away bone and disc to restore your spine’s normal anatomy, decompressing nerves and relieving pain.”

Spinal fusion relies on bone rongeurs — think of cutting pliers — to enter the spinal canal. A patient may also get metal plates, screws, and rods. Because this method doesn’t have the precision of ultrasonic surgery, it can lead to complications. These include injury to blood vessels or nerves in and around the spine, infection, and blood loss, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Traditional spinal fusions displace much of the affected bone and muscle during the surgical process. But with ultrasonic tools and methods, these common displacements can be avoided.

The recovery

Spinal fusion procedures alter how the spine functions by immobilizing a portion of it and require a three to four day stay in the hospital, according to Healthline. From there, it takes six to eight weeks for the fusion to reach a level where you can begin to do your regular activities, and three to six months for full recovery.

Complications happen in 13% of spinal fusion surgeries, according to a study in Spine journal.

Ultrasonic surgery, on the other hand, has an average recovery time of six to eight weeks.

“Procedures are outpatient, same day surgeries and post-surgery results are constantly ranked excellent only 4 weeks after surgery,” Sonospine says.

Learn more about ultrasonic spine surgery and find out if you’re a candidate at or call 888-957-7463 to learn more and schedule a consultation.

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