Spinal fusion surgery is commonly recommended when conservative treatment for back pain has failed. What does spinal surgery involve and what can you expect if you are considering spinal fusion surgery?
When Is Spinal Fusion Necessary?
Fusion surgery is generally only considered when all conservative treatment for lumbar or cervical conditions has failed. Conservative treatment generally involves medication, physical therapy, and epidurals. Conditions that could require fusion surgery include
bulging discs, spinal stenosis,
degenerative disc disease, scoliosis,
spondylolisthesis, and spinal tumors.
What is a Spinal Fusion?
Surgery to fuse the spine is the process of fixating one vertebral body to another. To connect one vertebra to another, bonding materials are used. Instruments such as screws, rods, or plates can be utilized to assist in attaching one vertebra to another.
Typically the disc between the two vertebrae is removed or trimmed and a bone graft used to fill the gap between the segments. Other stabilizing instruments such as plates or screws are used to maximize the fixation. Doing so will cause the two vertebrae to function as one long segment and therefore stops movement between the two individual vertebral bodies thus reducing back pain.
Spinal fusion is most commonly performed in the cervical and lumbar regions. To get an overview of exactly what this surgery involves, watch this video:
Recovery from Fusion Surgery
Post operative recovery from spinal fusion varies based on the specific procedure performed and the number of levels involved. With a majority of fusion surgeries a post operative brace is utilized. Generally the brace is worn for a minimum of six weeks after surgery.
During the post operative recovery key aspects can impact healing. Smoking, the use of certain medication, and excessive activity can negatively affect healing.
The decision to have fusion surgery should only be made after careful consideration. Make sure to discuss with your surgeon exactly what you should expect following your specific surgical procedure.