Spinal fusion surgery is one of the most common types of back surgery. We perform the spinal fusion procedure with the intention of correcting specific problems in the spine. Many people find it easier to look at spinal fusion surgery as welding of the spine if you will. We typically recommend this type of surgery for people who have issues with one or more of the small bones in the spine. By fusing the vertebrae, we encourage the spine to heal as the bones are permanently joined together.
One important distinction we must make is that a spinal fusion procedure does not immediately weld the vertebrae together, but rather helps the spine heal over the course of several months by placing bone grafts around the damaged areas.
What is Spinal Fusion Surgery
While we try to recommend various alternatives to surgery for those experiencing back pain, sometimes the only solution is spinal fusion surgery. This surgery is designed to eliminate any pain you are experiencing while restoring stability at the same time.
A minimally-invasive surgery, spinal fusions performed today start with an incision in the back that exposes the spine. The surgeon will then cut through the muscles along the spine to gain access to the damaged vertebrae. The size of the incision will depend on the patient and what exactly needs to be done, all of which we discuss with you before the surgery.
Once the incision has been made, and the surgeon can view the area in question, spinal implants are placed to stabilize the spine and jumpstart the healing process.
What to Expect from Spinal Fusion Surgery
One of the biggest areas of concern for people needing spinal fusion surgery is how soon they will be back to normal. In the past, a spinal fusion may have kept you from doing what you love and getting back to your life, but thanks to advancements in modern medicine, this is no longer the case. Many patients are not only able to resume their normal lives, but they can function much better than they could prior to surgery.
Spinal Fusion Surgery Recovery
Albeit common, spinal fusion surgery is not an easy surgery and typically comes with a long recovery period; this is something to keep in mind before moving forward with spinal fusion surgery, as many people find the recovery rather challenging. However, each patient is different and may have a different experience when it comes to spinal fusion recovery. Most people experience some level of discomfort in the days and weeks after the procedure, and patients typically stay in the hospital for one to five days. Once released, the rehabilitation process can begin! Physical therapy is one of the most common and effective types of therapy and can drastically improve the recovery process following spinal fusion surgery.
Risks and Complications
As with any procedure, spinal fusion surgery has a handful of risk factors that should be taken into consideration. Some of these risks include:
- Pain or other complications at the site of the graft
- Excessive bleeding
- Nerve damage
- Blood clots
- Spinal fluid leaks
Surgical Fusion Alternatives
Generally speaking, we only recommend spinal fusion surgery if it is absolutely necessary. We encourage you to try physical therapy and other alternative modalities to find relief from the pain you are experiencing, but if nothing is helping, it may be time to consider the spinal fusion procedure.
Spinal fusion surgery is often recommended for patients experiencing pain and discomfort due to degenerative disc disease, fractures, infections, scoliosis, spinal stenosis, and tumors. If your quality of life is suffering because of back pain, it may be time to consider this procedure. Back pain is not only uncomfortable, but it can wreak havoc on both personal and professional aspects of your life.