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What is a 360° Fusion (Anterior and Posterior)?

360 degree lumbar fusion is also known as an Anterior/Posterior Lumbar fusion. The procedure is an extremely common method for fusing the lumbar spine in which there is an incision anterior in the abdominal area and incisions posterior in the lumbar or low back region. The goal of the procedure is to stop abnormal motion at the involved level of the spine which is producing the pain symptoms. There are a wide variety of methods to fuse the lumbar spine. 360 fusion is considered one of the more successful methods however. The procedure is safe and is minimally invasive, especially in the skinny patient population. Typically the procedure requires two surgeons to perform – one who is an “anterior access” surgeon and the other is the spinal surgeon. The access surgeon is responsible for safely maneuvering into the abdomen and exposing the spine. Many times the spine is actually closer to the abdomen than it is to the back due to the thickness of the muscle.

Using the 360 technique for fusions limits the muscle dissection in the low back compared to other procedures such as the trans-lumbar interbody fusion procedure and thereby is less invasive.

The risks of the procedure are minimal when using an experienced access surgeon and spine surgeon. The procedure itself inserts an interbody cage between the vertebra that is filled with synthetic bone graft (the Anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion procedure). This is combined with minimally invasive posterior incisions (usually less than an inch or two in length) to perform a posterior fusion with screws to hold the spine in place. The fusion rates of 360 fusion are the highest of any method to fuse the spine.

Patients usually stay overnight in the hospital 1-2 nights after this procedure. Pain is typically treated with IV patient controlled morphine for the first night and oral pain pills thereafter.


What are the Symptoms of a 360° Fusion?

  • Chronic low back pain around the belt line
  • Nerve pain radiating into the buttock or thigh region
  • Pain increasing with sitting and/or physical activity
  • Worsening of pain with bending forward

How do you Test and Diagnose for a 360° Fusion?

  • X-rays of the lumbar spine
  • MRI of the lumbar spine
  • CT scan of the lumbar spine
  • Discogram  

What are Some Non-operative Treatments for a 360° Fusion?

  • Physical therapy
  • Pain medications/NSAIDs/Muscle relaxers
  • Steroid injections and facet joint ablation procedures

What Conditions Require 360° Fusion?

360 Fusion
360 Fusion Doctor


Once you have decided to have surgery, the following events take place:

  • A medical examination.
  • Chest X-ray, EKG and blood work.
  • You may be asked to have a neurological or psychological examination.
  • If taking aspirin or anti-inflammatory medications daily, stop these medications at least one week before surgery.
  • If you take prescription medications or other drugs, including herbals, ask your doctor how soon before fusion surgery you should stop taking these.
  • Do not have anything to eat or drink for 6 to 8 hours before surgery.
  • You will check into the hospital the morning of fusion surgery.
  • Prior to surgery, you will be asked to sign permits for surgery, anesthesia, blood and blood products.
  • An incision is made by a general surgeon in the abdomen to expose the front part of the spine.
  • Fluoroscopy (live X-ray) is used to determine the correct level(s) to be operated.
  • The disc is approached after carefully separating away the abdominal contents and major blood vessels are moved off to the side.
  • The disc is removed.
  • A fusion cage or wedge of bone is placed in the disc space.
  • Normal compression of the spine will hold the bone or cage in place. A screw may be placed into the vertebrae to act as additional support.
  • After the anterior fusion is completed and the incision closed and bandaged, you will be gently rolled over on the operating room table and prepared for the posterior lumbar fusion.
  • An incision is made in the low back area.
  • Fluoroscopy is used to determine the correct level(s) to be operated.
  • Bone graft is placed along both sides of the back part of the spine.
  • Pedicle screws may be placed in the vertebrae above and below the level to be fused.
  • The screws are connected with rods.
  • Surgery takes approximately 2-5 hours.
  • You will be in the recovery room from 1 to 1½ hours.
  • The surgeon will contact your family while you are in recovery.
  • After going to a hospital room, you will be able to use a PCA pump to get medication for pain control. This machine controls the amount of medication that can be received.
  • Staff will usually get you out of bed shortly after surgery.
  • The hospital stay is usually 2-3 days.
  • A brace or corset is prescribed to restrict bending and promote healing of the fused area.
  • You will be given any needed prescriptions and discharge instructions.
  • A set of exercises that you can do at home will be provided.
  • You will be able to ride in a car or plane upon leaving the hospital.
  • It is important to avoid twisting and bending backward.
  • Physical therapy is usually initiated after the first office visit with your doctor following surgery.
  • Recovery from 360° fusion surgery varies greatly among patients and is dependent on the extent of the surgery as well as the age and health of the individual. Return to work also varies greatly among patients and is related to overall health and the type of work you do. It is important to note that back pain is seldom completely eliminated – the objective with fusion surgery is to reduce pain.


Most patients can return to a light duty job within the first 3-4 weeks. No significant lifting for first 2 months.

Depending on the diagnosis, patients experience between 60-80% relief of their pain symptoms, sometimes even more.

As with any surgery there are risks. Stroke/heart attack/blood clot to the lung are the most serious risks, however these are EXTREMELY LOW risks. Bleeding and infection are the most common less serious risks and these too are VERY LOW risks. Less than 1/1000 patients could have a  minor complication.

After the first 2-3 weeks your doctor will release you for sexual activity. Men have a 1% chance of having sexual issues after this procedure.

Typically 90-95% of patients will have significant improvement with the surgery. A small percentage of patients simply will not improve due to not fusing and/or chronic pain issues.

With modern bone graft substitutes, fusion rates are greater than 95%.

The hardware is mostly titanium, therefore it will not set off metal detectors