A sacroiliac (SI) joint fusion is the most common surgical procedure used to treat SI joint pain. The procedure’s objective is to eliminate movement at the sacroiliac joint by grafting the ilium and sacrum together. Specifically, the procedure involves inserting multiple implants that are used to better stabilize the joint and prevent movement.
The sacroiliac joint is located in the pelvis and helps link the iliac bones and sacrum. The SI joint plays an important role in shock absorption and preventing forces from reaching and damaging the spine. Although many circumstances can cause sacroiliac joint pain; fortunately, there are many treatment options available, including the SI joint fusion procedure.
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A sacroiliac joint fusion is a minimally invasive procedure where one or both sides of the sacrum (bottom of the spine) are grafted to the ilium (pelvis) to encourage bone growth across the SI joint. Multiple implants are also inserted to help further stabilize and prevent movement of the joint. The purpose of SI joint fusion is to reduce pain by stabilizing the joint.
While sacroiliac joint fusion is an effective treatment option, oftentimes it is recommended after trying several nonsurgical treatment options (i.e. physical therapy, medications, injections) without experiencing much success.
How Effective Is A Sacroiliac Joint Fusion
A study found that more than 80% of patients who underwent minimally invasive SI joint fusion surgery reported they’d do the same surgery again. Patients were satisfied with both the short-term and long-term outcomes of the procedure.
Therefore, sacroiliac joint fusion is an effective procedure for a majority of patients in reducing chronic sacroiliac joint pain. Although the fusion of sacroiliac joint is oftentimes not the first treatment option recommended, if patients have exhausted various nonsurgical treatment options without much success, SI joint fusion can be a great next step.
This is because although it is a surgery, it is a minimally invasive procedure. Therefore, patients experience less recovery time and less surgical pain relative to more major open surgical treatment options for SI joint pain.
Common Signs, Symptoms, and Causes of Sacroiliac Joint Dysfunction
A sacroiliac joint fusion procedure helps treat chronic SI joint pain caused by sacroiliac joint dysfunction. Pain is one of the primary symptoms of SI joint dysfunction. Specifically, chronic lower back pain and leg pain. Pain can worsen when lifting, running, walking, and even sleeping on the affected side.
Other common signs and symptoms of sacroiliac joint dysfunction include:
● Numbness, tingling, or weakness of the lower extremity
● Buttock pain
● Hip/groin pain
● Pain that radiates down one of both legs
● Leg instability (feeling like your leg is about to buckle)
● Lack of quality sleep due to pain
● Pain sitting
● Pain standing
Seeking early diagnosis and treatment is essential to better manage your pain symptoms and improve your overall quality of life.
The cause of sacroiliac joint pain is oftentimes unknown. Some common causes of SI joint pain include:
● Sudden and traumatic injury or accident
● Tissue loosening due to pregnancy
● Previous lower back surgery
● A preexisting condition (i.e.differences in leg length, muscle imbalance)
How Long Do the Effects of A Sacroiliac Joint Fusion Work For?
Sacroiliac joint fusion is a long-term solution to relieving pain caused by SI joint pain. Most patients experience pain relief for several years following a sacroiliac joint fusion. That being said, the entire recovery process can take up to 6 months.
Therefore, while the fusion sacroiliac joint treatment is a minimally invasive procedure that provides both short and long-term results, recovery time is required.
Who is a Good Candidate for a Sacroiliac Joint Fusion?
If you are struggling with chronic SI joint pain, and have tried several nonsurgical treatment options (i.e. physical therapy, oral medications, injection therapy) without much success at effectively relieving your pain, undergoing a sacroiliac joint fusion may be a great next step.
Chronic pain symptoms can significantly reduce your quality of life. Over time, many chronic pain sufferers may even be forced to modify their life to better accommodate their pain symptoms. If you’ve been struggling with chronic lower back pain for some time, and suspect it may be SI joint pain, getting a diagnosis is a critical first step toward relieving your pain.
What to Expect During Treatment
After receiving a diagnosis and attempting several nonsurgical treatment options to relieve your SI joint pain, if these options prove ineffective, sacroiliac joint fusion may be recommended.
Here’s what to expect during a minimally invasive SI joint fusion treatment:
- Under general anesthesia, your body will be positioned face/stomach down.
- A small incision will be made on the side of the patient’s buttock. The gluteal muscles will then be dissected to gain access to the ilium.
- A guide pin will be inserted to create a hole to provide access to the ilium. Once an opening has been created, it will be drilled to provide a pathway for the implants to be inserted to reach the sacrum.
- Depending if the patient requires a bone graft, the SI joint will be cleared and a bone graft will be packed into the joint space.
- Then, the implants are guided through and carefully inserted using various screws and pins.
- Finally, the incision site will be irrigated to cleanse the site and closed.
Most surgeries involving a fusion of SI joint take about an hour and are low-risk thanks to the minimally invasive nature of the procedure.
What is the Sacroiliac Joint Fusion Recovery Process
Although a minimally invasive SI joint fusion procedure is less intensive than open fusion surgeries, SI joint fusion recovery is essential.
Most patients upon completion of the procedure will need to stay about 1 to 2 nights in the hospital. Patients will then need about a 3 to 6-month recovery period to fully recover from the sacroiliac joint fusion procedure.
During this recovery period, your doctor will likely advise you to do a combination of exercises and treatments to relieve your pain during the healing process. This may include taking pain medication, practicing physical therapy, applying heat and ice, as well as potentially wearing a pelvic brace to stabilize the pelvis and prevent any movement that could negatively impact the healing process.
How Soon Will I See Results?
While patients may experience short-term results of pain relief following treatment, it may take anywhere from 6 to 12 months for complete results to take form. This is because it can take patients up to 6 months to fully recover from the procedure.
If a patient continues to experience SI joint pain after this 6 to 12-month period post-treatment, your doctor may recommend other treatment options to better manage your pain symptoms.
Benefits of Getting a Sacroiliac Joint Fusion
A sacroiliac joint fusion can be a great next step for chronic SI joint pain sufferers who haven’t found relief after trying various nonsurgical treatment options.
Here are some of the main advantages of undergoing sacroiliac joint fusion surgery to reduce your SI joint pain symptoms.
● Less Scarring: The minimally invasive nature of the surgery means smaller incisions which makes for less visible signs of scarring.
● Directly Addresses Your Pain Symptoms: Unlike some nonsurgical treatment options that mask your pain, this treatment directly addresses the source of your SI joint pain.
● Short Hospital Stay: Patients typically only need to stay 1 to 2 nights in the hospital making it a quick and easy procedure.
● Low-Risk Procedure: There are minimal complications with this treatment. The primary complication is the procedure being ineffective at reducing your pain symptoms.
● Short Procedure Time: This procedure takes just an hour, making it a fast, simple, and effective procedure.
Schedule Your SI Joint Fusion at the Pain and Spine Specialists
Suffering from chronic pain significantly reduces your quality of life. Rather than sitting on the sidelines and missing out on core memories with friends and families because of your pain, there are several treatment options available that can safely and effectively manage your pain symptoms.
At Pain and Spine Specialists, we are a team of advanced pain specialists committed to providing comprehensive care for patients to feel less pain and take back their life. We offer a variety of nonsurgical and surgical treatment options to provide pain relief for a variety of conditions.
Whether you are struggling with pain caused by SI joint dysfunction, or another condition, we’re here to help reduce your pain so you can live a normal, healthy lifestyle.
If you’ve been struggling with chronic pain, you should not have to tolerate your pain all on your own. Contact us today to learn how we can help create a customized treatment plan to better manage your pain symptoms.
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