Surgery to fuse the lumbar spine

Surgery to fuse the lumbar spine

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Credit: JOHN T. ALESI/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Caption: Surgery to fuse the lumbar spine. Sequence of artworks illustrating an operation to replace the central portion of an intervertebral disc with an implant. This procedure, taking place in the lumbar (lower back) region of the spine, is known as lateral interbody fusion. At upper left, two small incisions (red) are made in the patient's lower left back. At upper right, a probe and retractors are inserted and carefully guided past internal organs (labelled) to reach the L3-L4 disc. At lower left, the central portion of the disc (the nucleus pulposus) is removed through dilation tubes. At lower right, the final stage is to insert a fusion cage containing bone graft material into the space.

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