We’re pleased to announce that Pain Physicians of Wisconsin is now Pro Spine Pain.

(262) 297-7246

Minimally Invasive Lumbar Fusion

What is a Lumbar Fusion?

Minimally invasive lumbar fusion is performed to stabilize the vertebral bones and spinal joints. It is a procedure that treats back and leg pain caused by spinal instability.

We consider the minimally invasive lumbar fusion procedure when conservative treatments like medications, physical therapy, and other pain management treatments like epidural steroid injections and radiofrequency ablation fail to provide adequate relief. If you are experiencing chronic low back pain and leg pain due to spinal instability, you do not have to tolerate it any longer.

Unlike open or traditional surgery, minimally invasive lumbar fusion requires one or more small (half-inch) incisions through the skin. The procedure causes less damage to your muscles and requires less recovery time. The considerable advantage is that you can go home the same day and your recovery period is usually about a week.

Who Can Benefit From This Treatment?

Minimally invasive lumbar fusion is an option for patients suffering from chronic back and leg pain along with one, or more, of the following diagnoses:

Degenerative Disc Disease (DDD)

When there are anatomic changes and a loss of function of varying degrees of one or more intervertebral discs

Spinal stenosis

When the spinal column narrows and extends pressure on the spinal cord and nerves

Spondylolisthesis (spinal instability)

When two backbones shift, which may pinch a spinal nerve to cause leg pain

Lumbar Radiculopathy

When inflammation of a nerve root in the lower back causes symptoms of pain or irritation in the back and down the legs.

How is a Minimally Invasive Lumbar Fusion Performed?

The procedure is done through a minimally invasive incision along the back, where the physician will gently move tissue and muscle to access the spine. After completing site preparation, the doctor places an interspinous spacer on the spine and affixes the two sides of the implant together for a full closure. This reinforcement of the spine is known as a fusion.

Types of Lumbar Fusion Surgery

Minimally Invasive Lumbar FusionThere are various types of lumbar spinal fusion surgery. They differ slightly based on the location in your spine and where the pain is coming from. After receiving the results of diagnostic imaging scans and identifying the affected area, you’ll be referred for either lumbar spinal fusion or lateral, posterior, or transforaminal fusion.

Here are the main differences between these procedures:

  • Lumbar interbody fusion: This is a minimally invasive surgery that takes a front-facing approach. Your surgeon will access your spine through your abdomen.
  • Lateral lumbar interbody fusion: Your surgeon makes an incision through the side of your spine, accessing your intervertebral discs.
  • Posterior lumbar: A posterior approach involves operating through your back to reach your spine.
  • Transforaminal lumbar interbody: Your spine will be operated on from your back.


To ensure an efficient postoperative healing process, our advanced practice providers will regularly contact you to review your progress. Around 14 days after your operation date, you’ll be scheduled for a postoperative review.

After having the lumbar spinal fusion surgery, you’re likely to be advised to:

  • Take prescribed pain medications
  • Don’t scrub or place the incision in water
  • Don’t apply creams, lotions, or oils to the incision

Call us immediately if you experience any of the following:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Chest pain
  • A foul odor, increased redness, or drainage from your incision
  • Palpitations
  • A temperature of 100.4F degrees or above
  • Redness or swelling to your calf
  • Problems with bowel movement
  • New onset of pain, weakness, or numbness

Making a full recovery following a lumbar spinal fusion can often take several months, based on your surgery, age, and lifestyle. Your surgeon may refer you for physical therapy to increase your strength, mobility, and range of motion to ensure your spine aligns properly.

What are the Risks of a Lumbar Fusion?

Just like any spinal surgery, a lumbar fusion can have some associated risks. The risks can occur due to various factors, such as the type of spinal fusion performed and your health.

The following risks could occur:

  • Infection from general anesthetic
  • Bleeding
  • Nerve damage
  • Allergic reaction to the bone graft
  • Blood clots
  • Issues with the hardware

At Pro Spine & Pain, we know the potential risks a lumbar fusion could create. However, by abiding to strict clinical protocols, using a collaborative approach, using state-of-the-art diagnostic imaging and advanced surgical techniques, we have one of the lowest complication rates for lumbar fusions in Wisconsin.


How Often Is the Procedure Performed?

The procedure is performed just once. However, an additional implant can be added at a different spine level in future, if needed.

What Is the Success Rate of This Procedure?

  • Average pain reduction of 70%
  • Patients are more active and see a reduction in medication usage
  • Minimal to no complications

What Are the Precautions After the Procedure?

Patients should avoid twisting and bending after the procedure. You should also require you to prevent pushing, lifting or pulling objects greater than 5lbs until you are through your recovery period.

Can I Live a Normal Life After Spinal Fusion?

After around 8-12 months following your spinal fusion surgery, you can expect to return to a normal life. However, to return to your normal routine, you must strictly abide by your doctor’s instructions for a smoother, successful outcome.

How Long Does It Take to Recover From Lumbar Fusion Surgery?

On average, it can take one year to recover from lumbar surgery. Initially, you may find it difficult to sit or stand in one position for a prolonged period. After that, it might take 4-6 weeks to begin doing simple activities, like housework. During your recovery, you might be advised to wear a back brace to ensure effective healing.

What Is the Fastest Way to Recover From a Spinal Fusion?

Often, the fastest way to recover from a spinal fusion is by maintaining a healthy diet, taking pain relief, resting properly, attending physical therapy appointments, and following the orders of your doctor.

Updated on Apr 24, 2024 by Dr. Thomas Stauss (Pain Management) of Pro Spine & Pain

Thomas Stauss, MD

Thomas Stauss, MD, completed both his undergraduate and medical studies at the esteemed University of Wisconsin in Madison. Dr. Stauss values having access to a wide array of cutting-edge treatment options, ensuring effective relief for his patients' discomfort and a significant enhancement in their quality of life. More specifically, he specializes in utilizing implanted devices to manage chronic pain. Dr. Stauss’s primary objective is to uphold the dignity of each patient while delivering ethical and professional services.

More about Dr. Stauss