The surgeons at The Maryland Spine Center at Mercy have described and presented an innovative technique of identifying non-unions, or failed fusions, using CT scans. Described as the “Vacuum Disc Sign,” the presence of air between the vertebrae was found to accurately diagnose a failed fusion.
A failed fusion, or non-union, is treated by improving the biology and biomechanics of the healing environment. Bone morphogenic protein is commonly used to stimulate the local bone cells and rapidly produce new bridging bone. While the bones are healing it is important that they be restricted from moving. Screw implants are used as a form of internal brace to hold the vertebra still while the bone healing takes place. While the screw implants may be removed after healing, this is rarely performed as the implants are generally painless and pose no risk.
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