The procedure of a spinal fusion involves the permanent joining of 2 or more bones (vertebrae) in the spine to prevent any movement in between them.
What Takes Place In A Spinal Fusion Procedure?
- The surgeon will make an incision somewhere on your body including: on your back or the neck of the spine, on the side of your stomach if it is the lower spine, or on the side or your neck toward the side of your spine.
- The surgeon will graft (or fuse) the bones together; this could involve a strip of bone graft placed over the spine, bone graft placed between the vertebrae, or cages placed between the vertebrae packed with bone graft.
- The surgeon usually gets the bone graft from another part of the body, including, your pelvic bone, your pelvis, or use a bone substitute.
- To prevent the bone graft from moving before it is healed, the vertebrae may be secured together with screws, or rods, or plates.
- The length of the spinal fusion procedure is 3-4 hours.
Why Is A Spinal Fusion Performed?
Most often, a spinal fusion procedure is produced along with a spinal stenosis, a laminectomy, or a foraminotomy, or after a diskectomy in the neck.
Spinal Fusion May Be Performed For The Following Symptoms:
- A weak or unstable spine due to a tumor or infection
- Abnormal curvature of the spine
- Fracture or another injury to the spine
- If patient has condition called spondylolisthesis, where one vertebra slips on top of another
- Patient has arthritis or spinal stenosis
Risks of Spinal Fusion Surgery
Potential risks include infection of the spine in the wound and around the vertebrae bones, damage to a spinal nerve causing loss of sensation, bladder problems, and wear and tear to the above and below vertebrae, causing more problems down the road.
What To Expect After Spinal Fusion Surgery
You will stay in the hospital 3-4 days after surgery and will receive pain medication accordingly. You can either take oral pain medication of they may put you on an IV to help control how much pain medicine you get.
Afterwards, they will instruct you on how to sit and walk properly, as well as use the “log roll” technique when getting out of bed, i.e. turning your entire body at once to get out of bed in order not to twist your spine.
Furthermore, in case you are unable to eat for 2-3 days afterwards, you will be fed nutrients through an IV, while still at the hospital.
If you started out with back pain before, you will very likely still have some back pain after the procedure, because it is hard to eliminate all suffering. Overall, it can be difficult for surgeons to predict how good your outcome will be in a sense of knowing exactly how much pain the surgery will help take away.
Ultimately, losing weight and increasing your exercise routine will help you feel better over the long run.
Lastly, it is critical to understand that the portion of the spine that was fused together can no longer move. The portions above and below the spinal fusion are therefore very likely to have some problems later on.
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