Sacroiliac Joint Fusion

What Is SI Joint Fusion?

This minimally invasive procedure permanently fuses the sacroiliac joint that connects the base of your spine to your pelvis. SI joint fusion can provide long-term pain relief for those suffering from SI joint dysfunction. During the procedure, the joint is accessed through a small incision in the back or buttock, implant(s) is inserted to stabilize and fuse the joint.

The joint can become painful and unstable due to a variety of reasons such as trauma, pregnancy, arthritis, or inflammation. SI joint fusion is typically recommended when conservative treatments such as physical therapy, pain medications, or injections have failed to relieve symptoms.

  1. The patient is placed under general anesthesia. Alternatively, local anesthesia with sedation may be used.
  2. The surgeon makes a small incision usually less than 2 inches long on patient’s back or buttock. 
  3. Damaged cartilage is removed to prepared the joint surface for the fusion process. 
  4. Under imaging guidance, the implant is insert across the sacroiliac joint. The new bone will be able to grow around the implant.  
  5. Once the implant is in place, the surgeon closes the incision with sutures or staples. 
  6. The procedure takes about an hour. The patient can go home within the same day if there is no complication. 

As with any surgical procedure, SI joint fusion comes with certain risks and potential complications. Some of the risks associated with this procedure include:

  • Infection: There is a risk of developing an infection at the site of the incision or the joint. This can be treated with antibiotics, but in rare cases, additional surgery may be needed to remove infected tissue.
  • Bleeding: The procedure may cause excessive bleeding, which can lead to the need for blood transfusions.
  • Nerve injury: The nerves around the sacroiliac joint can be damaged during the procedure, leading to temporary or permanent nerve damage and loss of sensation or movement.
  • Hardware complications: The fixation devices used to stabilize the joint can cause pain or discomfort, and in rare cases, they may loosen, break, or migrate, requiring additional surgery to repair or remove.
  • Failed fusion: In some cases, the bone graft may fail to fuse properly, leading to ongoing pain and instability in the joint.
  • Blood clots: There is a risk of developing blood clots in the legs or lungs, which can be life-threatening.
  • Anesthesia complications: General anesthesia can cause complications such as nausea, vomiting, or allergic reactions.

SI joint fusion can offer several potential benefits for patients with sacroiliac joint dysfunction or degeneration, including:

Pain relief: The main benefit of SI joint fusion is relief from chronic pain and discomfort in the lower back, buttocks, and legs caused by sacroiliac joint dysfunction. Studies have shown that SI joint fusion can significantly reduce pain and improve function in patients with this condition.

Improved mobility: By stabilizing the sacroiliac joint, SI joint fusion can improve mobility and range of motion in the lower back and hips.

Reduced reliance on medication: Patients who undergo SI joint fusion may be able to reduce their reliance on pain medication or anti-inflammatory drugs, which can have side effects and long-term risks.

Improved quality of life: Chronic pain and limited mobility can significantly impact a person’s quality of life. By relieving pain and improving function, SI joint fusion can help patients regain their independence and enjoy a better quality of life.

Long-lasting results: SI joint fusion is a permanent solution to sacroiliac joint dysfunction, meaning that patients can expect long-lasting results and a reduced need for repeat procedures.

The effects of SI Joint Fusion vary from person to person, and it is important to understand that SCS may help reduce your pain, but not eliminate it.