Spinal fusion is a surgery that joins two or more vertebrae (the bones that make up your spine) together. Your doctor may recommend spinal fusion surgery if your spine condition symptoms fail to improve with nonsurgical treatments.
Spine conditions are often painful, because they deteriorate the health of vertebrae and make the spine unstable. Doctors believe the pain occurs when the affected vertebrae move. Spinal fusion joins the affected vertebrae together so that they no longer move and cause pain.
Surgeons use spinal fusion to treat several spine conditions, including:
- Herniated disc
- Osteoarthritis of the spine
- Spinal tumor
- Spine fractures
What to Expect: Spinal Fusion Surgery
Spinal fusion generally takes a few hours to complete. You can expect the following on the day of your surgery:
- An anesthesiologist will give you general anesthesia through an IV before the procedure begins.
- Your surgeon will make an incision near the location of the affected vertebrae.
- The surgeon will use a bone graft (transplanted bone or artificial bone) to join the vertebrae together.
- The surgeon may also use metal plates, rods or screws to hold the vertebrae together until the bone graft heals.
- Once the bone graft is in place, your surgeon will close the incision with stitches and cover it with a surgical dressing.
Recovery time for this procedure requires you to stay in the hospital for two to four days. You may need pain medication during this time. You may also need to wear a brace to promote proper healing.
Upon your return home, be sure to keep following your physician’s instructions for recovery. This may include continuing to wear a brace, physical therapy, and strengthening exercises. Most people who have spinal fusion surgery are able to return to their normal activities within six to 12 weeks.
Your spinal fusion care team may include specialists from these services:
As with any surgical procedure, there are risks associated with spinal fusion surgery. Your doctor will discuss the risks and benefits with you to ensure it's the best treatment for your condition.