Spinal Fusion Surgery

Spinal Fusion Surgery

Spinal fusion enables two or more vertebrae ( small, interlocking spinal bones) permanently joined into one solid bone without any gap between them. In spinal fusion, extra bone fills up the space that usually exists between the vertebrae. 

Spinal fusion’s other names include:  

  • anterior spinal fusion
  • posterior spinal fusion
  • vertebral interbody fusion
  • arthrodesis

Why Spinal Fusion Surgery is performed?

Spinal fusion treats or relieves many spinal problems through removing mobility between the two treated vertebrae. Though the procedure may decrease flexibility,  it still helps to treat various spinal disorders making movement painful, e.g.  

  • spinal stenosis
  • spinal tumours
  • herniated (bulging) or degenerative  discs
  • fractured vertebrae 
  • scoliosis (curvature) 
  • kyphosis (abnormal rounding of upper spine)
  • spinal weakness or instability related to  severe arthritis, tumours, or infections
  • spondylolisthesis 

A spinal fusion procedure may also include a discectomy that involves removing an ailing disc. After removal, bone grafts are filled up in  the empty disc space to maintain right height between bones. When spinal fusion is performed in the cervical spine with a discectomy, it is termed  cervical fusion. Instead of removing a vertebra, the surgeon shall remove discs or bone spurs from the cervical spine in the neck. 

How Spinal Fusion Surgery is performed?

Spinal fusion is performed under general anesthesia and may take several hours. 

    1. a surgeon and an anesthesia provider monitors your heartbeat and blood pressure during surgery. 

    2. surgeon will prepare the bone graft to fuse the two vertebrae depending on if your own bone is being used, or a synthetic bone or an allograft, which is a bone from a bone bank.

    3. an incision is made for placement of the bone 

    4. once the bone graft is in place, surgeon may use plates, screws, and rods to block spine movement (internal fixation) to reinforce added stability provided by the plates, screws, and rods helps faster healing and higher surgery success rate

What are the risks of an Spinal Fusion Surgery?

  • Infection
  • Blood clotting
  • Bleeding and Blood loss
  • Respiratory issues
  • Stroke or Heart attack during surgery
  • Inadequate wound healing
  • Reaction to medications or anaesthesia
  • Rare infection post surgery
  • Damage to a spinal nerve resulting in weakness, pain, and bowel or bladder problems
  • Additional stress on the bones adjacent to the fused vertebrae

After the Spinal Fusion Surgery

You’ll need to stay in the hospital for a period of recovery and observation that generally lasts 3-4 days. You’ll receive pain medication and movement instructions since your flexibility may be limited. That may require you to learn new methods of walking, sitting, and standing safely. Normal diet consisting of solid food for a few days shall be barred.

On discharge, you shall require to wear a brace to properly align the spine. Fusing may take up to six weeks or longer and you’ll be asked to rest. Physical rehabilitation shall help you strengthening  the back. Full recovery will take 3-6 months.

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