When doctors install the intervertebral fusion cage, it serves as a space holder between your affected vertebrae and allows the bone to grow through it — eventually becoming a part of your spine.

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Intervertebral Fusion Cage

To Clarify, the intervertebral fusion cage allows the spine surgeon to help bones grow during various back operations. For patients that require fusion surgery to treat degenerative disc disease, the intervertebral fusion cage provides an effective solution for several reasons.

  • Low complication rate
  • Minimized pain after surgery due to less trauma during surgery
  • Shorter hospital stay compared to other types of fusion methods
  • Quicker return to daily activities

However, the cage does not treat all types of spinal problems. If your pain comes from degenerative disc disease with segmental instability, the cage can provide a solution.

Surgery picture  installing Intervertebral Fusion Cages

Surgical Devices

Upon examing the intervertebral fusion cage, it appears as a hollow cylinder — made from various materials including metal or carbon-graphite fiber. When used, doctors place bone inside the cylinder. Also, the holes in the cage keep the graft in contact with the bony surface of the vertebrae. Therefore, this ensures that the bone graft unites with the vertebrae, forming a solid fusion.

The cage helps in several ways. As an example, the solid cage separates and holds two vertebrae apart. Also, this makes the opening around the nerve roots bigger, relieving pressure on the nerves. As the vertebrae separate, the ligaments tighten up, reducing instability and mechanical pain. Thus, the cage replaces the problem disc while holding the two vertebrae in position until fusion occurs.

With over 10,000 procedures using intervertebral fusion cages, our doctors believe the cages effectively aid in healing patients.  Similarly, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) previously approved many of these devices.


Doctors install the cages from the front or back of the spine. Moreover, surgery from the back of the spine removes bone spurs or a herniated disc into the spinal canal. In these instances, the cages can be implanted from the back, without making an additional incision in the patient’s abdomen.

Most often, the cages get installed during surgery through the front of the spine by making a large incision in the abdomen. Furthermore, this procedure uses the laparoscope, a TV camera that allows the doctor to see inside the abdominal cavity while working on the spine. This method only requires a few small incisions, which seems to help patients heal and get moving faster after surgery. The use of a laparoscope for this procedure does not always exist.  

Inserting the cage from the front

To see and work on the problem disc from the front, the surgeon makes an incision in the abdomen. The size of the incision depends on whether a laparoscope will assist the doctor during the procedure. The surgeon will move Organs and vessels to the side to see the spine. The problem disc is located using another type of special instrument called a fluoroscope (a special X-ray machine that shows the images on a TV screen).  In most cases, two cages get placed side by side to replace one disc. The surgeon drills two holes through the front of the disc. Before putting one cage into each hole, the doctor prepares the cages. Doctors will remove bone from your pelvis bone through a small incision on your side. A second incision may not occur if your surgeon uses a bone graft substitute.

Learn more about the use of bone grafts.


If you or a loved one suffers from spinal pain, you owe it to yourself to call Southwest Scoliosis and Spine Institute at 214-556-0555 to make an appointment.