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Sacroiliac Joint Fusion Surgery

What does “Sacroiliac Joint Fusion” mean?

Here is the meaning of each word:

  1. Sacroiliac Joint: the joint between the tailbone (sacrum) and iliac bone of the pelvis.
  2. Fusion: to mend two bones together to become one large bone.

Altogether, “Sacroiliac Joint Fusion” means mending the tailbone to the pelvis.

 Why is a Sacroiliac Joint Fusion done?

A fusion of the Sacroiliac Joint is done for patients who suffer from chronic severe pain of the Sacroiliac Joint. These patients often have had extensive care for sacroiliac joint pain possibly including injections, radiofrequency rhizotomies, physical therapy, medications, and sacroiliac belts.

What is the difference between a Sacroiliac Joint Injection, a Sacroiliac Joint Radiofrequency Rhizotomy and a Sacroiliac Joint Fusion?

1.  A Sacroiliac Joint Injection is initially done to diagnose if the patient’s pain is coming from the Sacroiliac Joint. If it is very helpful for a significant period of time, this injection can be repeated.

2. A Sacroiliac Joint Radiofrequency Rhizotomy tries to disrupt the small nerves traveling to the Sacroiliac Joint using targeted heat energy. This procedure is often done if Sacroiliac Joint Injections are not helping for long period of time. This procedure is a minimally invasive procedure done with needles.

3. A Sacroiliac Joint Fusion is done when neither Sacroiliac Joint Injections nor Sacroiliac Joint Radiofrequency Rhizotomies give a patient longer lasting pain relief. This procedure is an actual surgery including an incision and a period of recovery from the surgery.

How is a Sacroiliac Joint Fusion surgery done?                              

Here are some of the steps of how this surgery is done:

  1. This surgery is performed in an Operating Room.
  2. An intravenous catheter (IV) is started. Antibiotics are given before surgery.
  3. A General Anesthetic is given with the patient on their back (supine).
  4. The patient is carefully placed on their stomach (prone).
  5. The skin around the tailbone is cleaned with a sterile antiseptic solution. Sheets (drapes) are placed around the site.
  6. An X-Ray machine is used to find the Sacroiliac Joint both from the front (AP) and the side (Lateral).
  7. The surgeon makes a small cut (incision) over the hip on the side of the bad Sacroiliac Joint.
  8. The tissue and muscles are moved until the hip bone (pelvis) is contacted.
  9. Three Small titanium rods are placed across the Sacroiliac Joint with extensive help of the X-Ray machine.
  10. The skin and tissues are closed.
  11. A bandage (dressing) is placed over the incision.
  12. The patient is turned on their back (supine) and awoken from Anesthesia.

How long does it take to perform a Sacroiliac Joint Fusion?

This surgery takes about 1-2 hours to complete.

What is the recovery like from a Sacroiliac Joint Fusion?

Here are some of the steps of the recovery from this surgery:

  1. This surgery can be done as an outpatient.
  2. The patient is given limitation on activity such as walking, running, bending and lifting.
  3. The wound from surgery will take 2-4 weeks to heal.
  4. The patient is usually reevaluated by the surgeon within several weeks after surgery.
  5. It may take weeks to months to get the full benefit from this surgery.

What type of benefit can patients gain from a Sacroiliac Joint Fusion?

Patients could potentially achieve permanent pain relief from this surgery.