Spine Surgery Glossary

ALIF (Anterior lumbar interbody fusion): A type of spine surgery that’s done from an incision around the abdomen, often used to fuse the L5-S1 joint.

Allograft: Bone, ligament, or tissue that’s obtained from a donor.

Anterior: Near the front. In spinal fusion procedures, an anterior approach utilizes an incision in the abdomen.

Annulus Fibrosis: The protective exterior layer of an intervertebral disc.

Arthrodesis: The surgical immobilization of a joint by fusion of the adjacent bones to create the formation of new bone tissue.

Autograft: Bone graft taken from a body.

AxiaLIF (Axial lumbar interbody fusion): A minimally invasive spinal fusion procedure that uses a presacral approach to stabilize the foundation of your spine at the L5-S1 joint.

Biologic Substances: Man-made bone graft

BMP: Bone morphogenetic protein. Naturally occurring proteins that enhance bone growth.

Bone Graft: A substance that facilitates fusion between your vertebrae (can be naturally extracted from bone or artificially generated).

Coccyx: Lowest segment of the spine. Most commonly referred to as the tailbone.

CT Scan (Computed Tomography Scan) – A multi-angle imaging technique that produces a 3D map of soft tissue or bone.

Decompression: A type of spine surgery that reduces pressure the pressure on the spinal cord by removing parts of the spine that are causing discomfort.

Degenerative Disc Disease: A term used to describe the gradual deterioration of the intervertebral discs in the spine.  This may occur naturally with the aging process or as result of injury.

Discectomy: A surgical procedure that involves the total or partial removal of an intervertebral disc in the spine.

Endoscope: A medical device with a camera attached to it that passes through small surgical incisions.  This allows surgeons to monitor certain areas of the anatomy during spine surgery.

Endoscopic: A type of minimally invasive spine surgery where an endoscope is used to access the spine. Surgeons are able to have an internal view of the body while operating.

Facet Joint: Small joints located between and behind adjacent vertebrae.  By linking the vertebrae, facet joints help facilitate movement like bending and twisting.

Facet Screw: A type of spinal instrumentation usually used during spinal fusion procedures to stabilize the spine; screws can be threaded or smooth.

Fluoroscope: A specialized type of x-ray used to guide surgeons during surgery.

Foramen: A hollow bony archway located on the sides of your spine that creates a passageway through which all spinal nerve roots run.

Foraminotomy: A type of  spine surgery that expands the foramen (the space where spinal nerve roots exit the spine to other parts of the body).

Interbody fusion: A surgical procedure that uses bone graft to facilitate the growth of bone between two or more vertebrae in the spine.

Intervertebral Disc: The material between each of the vertebra that act as shock-absorbers and make it easier to move.

Intervertebral Fusion Cage: A small spinal implant device that’s used to restore disc height; typically filled with bone graft during spinal fusion procedures to promote the fusion process.

Lamina: A bony part of the spine that makes up a portion of the spinal canal; the “roof” of the spine.

Laminectomy: Spine surgery that removes of the lamina.

Laminotomy: Spine surgery that removes part of the lamina.

Lateral: From the side.  Surgeons use a lateral approach during spine surgery to gain access to certain parts of the lumbar spine.

LLIF (Lateral lumbar interbody fusion): A type of spine surgery performed with an incision from the side.

Lordosis: The natural “swayback” curve of the lumbar spine.

Lumbar spine: The part of the spine comprised of five vertebral bodies (L1-L5) that extend from the bottom of the thoracic spine down to the sacrum.

Microdiscectomy: A surgical technique for disc removal through a small opening using a microscope.

Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery: A type of spine surgery that uses advanced, computer-assisted technology and highly specialized tools and provides patients with a quicker recovery after surgery, less post-operative pain, and smaller incisions than traditional open spine surgery.

Nucleus Pulposus: The gel-like substance located in center of an intervertebral disc.

Ossification: The process in which cartilage is transformed into bone.

Osteoporosis: A disease that affects the bones, making them weaker and more prone to breaking.

Osteotomy: The surgical removal of a wedge or piece of vertebral bone to alter the alignment of the spine.

Pathology: The field of medicine and science that studies disease.

Pedicle: A portion of a vertebra containing stem-like structures that form part of the spinal canal, connecting the lamina with the vertebral body.

Pedicle Screw: A type of spinal instrumentation that’s inserted via the pedicle and into the vertebral body.

PLIF (Posterior lumbar interbody fusion): A type of spine surgery where surgeons make incision(s) on the back that line up with the spinous processes.

Posterior: From the back side. Having a posterior fusion in the lower back, the patient will lie on their belly during the operation and surgeons make the incision in the lower back.

Pseudarthrosis: An area of spinal fusion where the bones did not heal or fuse together. Broken instrumentation is often the cause and sometimes, but not always, increasing pain for the patient.

Rectus Abdominis: The abdominal muscle that runs vertically in the center of the stomach.

Sacrum: The sacrum is a triangular-shaped bone that consists of five segments (S1 – S5), located at the bottom of the spine between the lumbar and the coccyx.

Scoliosis: A musculoskeletal disorder where there’s a sideways curvature of the spine with possible rotation of the vertebrae.

Spina Bifida: A birth defect where one or more spinal vertebrae do not fully form during development, meaning part of the spinal column does not properly close.

Spinal Fusion: A surgical technique used to join 2 or more vertebrae; bone graft is often used to fuse vertebrae together.

Spinal stenosis: The narrowing of spaces in the spine which causes pressure on the spinal cord and nerves.

Spinous Processes: Thin, bony projections on the back of the spine.

Spinous Process Plate: A type of spinal instrumentation used to help stabilize the spine, usually due to spinal trauma or deformities.

Spondyloslisthesis: Occurs when one vertebra slips forward in relation to an adjacent vertebra. The degree of slippage is classified in grades: Grade I being the least amount of slippage, Grade IV the most.

Spondylolysis: A fracture of a posterior portion of the vertebra. Also referred to as a spinal stress fracture.

TLIF (Transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion): A type of spine surgery where the surgeon makes incisions that line up with the foramen.

Tubular: A type of minimally invasive spine surgery that involves a tubular retractor, which acts as a tunnel that passes through your back muscles to access your spine.

X-STOP: A type of spine surgery that involves an implant used as a lumbar spacer and is inserted between 2 of the spinous processes.