Understanding SI Joint Fusion

You have one sacroiliac (SI) joint on each side of your pelvis. They’re located where your sacrum — the large triangular bone at the base of your spine — connects to your hip bone (the ilium). These joints get held in place by a taut band of ligaments. 

Unlike your shoulder, elbow, or knee joints, SI joints have little mobility. Instead, their primary function is to absorb shock between your lower body and torso. Even though these joints don’t move much, they can still cause significant pain, especially if a joint gets injured or the ligaments become stretched or torn.

At Advanced Pain Management Center in Portland, Oregon, Vladimir Fiks, MD, provides solutions for common to complex spinal issues, including SI joint dysfunction. Here’s what leads to SI joint problems and how SI joint fusion can help.

SI joint dysfunction

Problems with the SI joints usually develop for one of three reasons: too much movement, too little movement, or inflammation. When this occurs, you can experience several uncomfortable symptoms, especially significant pain in your pelvis, hip, groin, or lower back. In fact, up to 30% of lower back pain develops because of the SI joint.

Common causes of SI joint problems include:

If your symptoms persist and don’t respond to conservative treatments, such as medication, spinal injections, or physical therapy, SI joint fusion could offer relief.

How SI joint fusion works

As the name implies, SI joint fusion fuses your ilium and sacrum together. During this minimally invasive procedure, Dr. Fiks places surgical implants and sometimes bone grafts in the problematic sacroiliac joint. These materials help increase joint stability and encourage the bones to fuse together.

Dr. Fiks uses minimally invasive techniques to perform this procedure. The key is also using a posterior approach — through your backside — to access the joint, which causes less surgical trauma and faster recovery times.

To place the implant, Dr. Fiks makes a 1-2 inch incision, which is above your buttocks and to the side of your spine. Then he drills a small hole through the backside of your upper hip bone so he can thread the implant in place across your SI joint and lock it in place.

Depending on your condition, Dr. Fiks could add 2-3 implants to provide enough stability in your joint. After placing the implants, he closes the incision with a few stitches. The procedure takes approximately an hour, and you go home the same day.

You can expect to have increased stability immediately after SI joint fusion. However, your symptoms can continue for a short period of time as your bones fuse together during the healing process. You can usually expect to have dramatic relief from your symptoms within a few weeks, but complete recovery may take up to six months.

To learn more about SI joint fusion and to see if it may help you, book an appointment online or over the phone with Advanced Pain Management Center today.

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