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The sacroiliac joint is a low-motion joint that connects the pelvis (iliac bone) to either side of the sacrum (the lowest part of your spine) — acting as a shock absorber between the lower body and the torso. Sacroiliac joint pain can be mild or severe and is typically caused by joint degeneration, trauma, hip pathology, scoliosis, sacroiliac joint dysfunction or sacroiliitis.
A sacroiliac fusion, or sacroiliac joint fusion, is a minimally invasive procedure that alleviates sacroiliac joint pain and discomfort and improves stability by immobilizing the sacroiliac joint.
While the symptoms leading up to a sacroiliac fusion surgery can vary, there are three common signs that indicate you may be a good candidate for it.
Severe Pain That Impacts Daily Activities
Sacroiliac joint issues typically cause pain in one or both sides of your lower back. You may feel pain in your buttock, hips and groin, and it may radiate down into your legs. Visit a back pain specialist if you have been experiencing back pain severe enough that it interferes with doing daily activities or impacts your quality of life.
Instability and Stiffness
Instability, stiffness and weakness in your legs, hip or groin area are a symptom of sacroiliac joint issues that can make it difficult and uncomfortable to walk, stand, sleep and sit. Your pain may worsen when you’ve been in the same position for an extended amount of time.
Conservative, Non-Surgical Treatments Do Not Help
Your doctor may recommend non-invasive, mild treatment such as physical therapy, pelvic bracing, steroid injections, chiropractic care or pain medication. If these treatment methods do not work, sacroiliac joint fusion surgery may help you find relief.
During a sacroiliac fusion procedure, a small incision is made over the sacral area, in the buttock. Guide pins are then inserted through the opening, allowing access to the ilium (pelvis). The sacroiliac joint is cleared of cartilage and soft tissue, and a bone graft is placed into the joint space, secured with pins or screws. Bone fusion occurs during the healing process.
Patients normally need to stay overnight in the hospital and are able to walk when they are released the next day. Since the fusion happens during the healing process, you can expect to still experience pain after the procedure, however, it should improve in the following weeks.
Your healthcare provider will work with you to create a recovery plan that works for you. They may prescribe pain medication or suggest over-the-counter pain relievers, along with hot and cold therapy to help you manage the pain as you recover. For increased stability as you heal, they may prescribe a pelvic brace and walking assistance devices such as a cane or walker.
Rest is key after a sacroiliac fusion procedure, however, your doctor will also recommend physical therapy to ensure proper recovery. Your physical therapist will guide you through a variety of exercises to help you regain your strength and stability. Typically, patients can expect to make a full recovery within three to six months following the procedure.
As with any surgical procedure, there are some potential risks associated with sacroiliac fusion surgery. Some risks of sacroiliac fusion surgery include infection, anesthesia complications and excessive blood loss. If you’re worried about complications following sacroiliac fusion surgery, talk to your healthcare provider to get a complete picture of its potential risks and benefits.
We’re affiliated with the North American Spine Society, keeping current on advances in spinal health.
With any surgical procedure, you want to be in the best health possible to ensure a smooth recovery. Remember to ask your physician how you should prepare for your procedure in the weeks and before surgery. Some common questions to ask include:
Make sure to follow your physician’s recommendations and notify them if anything changes in the time leading up to your surgery.