Surgery with Spinal Instrumentation

When spinal surgery involves an alteration to the vertebrae of the spine, the surgeon frequently uses some sort of hardware to help stabilize the spine or to act as spacers to restore the spine to its proper proportions. Physicians call the many types of implantable devices they use for this purpose instrumentation. Instrumentation includes:

  • Screws
  • Rods
  • Plates
  • Cages
  • Hooks
  • So-called “interbody devices”

Why is Instrumentation Necessary?

During surgical procedures, the surgeon may need to stabilize, strengthen, or align the spine in a way that will provide the most natural support for the patient. Most spinal surgeries involve removing or moving something in the spine. This may leave a need for some kind of spacer to restore the normal proportions of a healthy spine. Sometimes a part of the spine must be secured or made stable.

Instrumentation are medical devices that are specifically designed for use within the human body. These special devices are made of biocompatible materials and sized appropriately to provide reliable spinal support.

Spinal Fusion with Instrumentation

Spinal fusion is a procedure that permanently joins or fuses two or more vertebrae. This fusion is typically accomplished with spinal instrumentation. Once the vertebrae are fused, bone graft is packed around the joint to facilitate fusion. Bone graft can be:

  • From the patient (autograft)
  • From a donor (allograft)
  • Bone morphogenetic protein.

Reasons for Instrumentation

The University Spine Center may recommend spinal fusion and instrumentation to correct a spinal deformity, treat a fracture or spondylolisthesis, or to stabilize the spine following a disectomy. Your physician will discuss the most appropriate surgical choices for you.

Some people wonder whether or not the body will reject the foreign objects. Instrumentation is made of special medical-grade biocompatible materials designed to work well within the human body.

You may wonder if hardware in the body will set off metal detectors. This depends on many factors including the type of instrumentation used, your physical proportions, and the sensitivity of the metal detector. Many people with spinal instrumentation do not set off metal detectors. However, you must be prepared to identify yourself as a person with instrumentation if one goes off. The University Spine Center can provide you with an identification card to help you get through security points.

Factors Influencing Success in Fusion with Instrumentation

Every surgery carries with it some risk. The University Spine Center physicians will discuss the potential benefits and risks of fusion surgery with instrumentation or other surgeries with you.

It should be noted that there are many things you can do to help improve the odds of surgical success. Smoking or any kind of tobacco use is associated with unsuccessful fusion surgery. The University Spine Center encourages you to stop smoking well in advance of your surgery day, even if you are a regular smoker.

It is highly recommended that you quit smoking permanently. If this is not possible or if you smoke now and just found out you need back surgery, stop as soon as possible.


The University Spine Center will provide a care plan for your recovery following spinal surgery with instrumentation.