First performed in 1911, spinal fusion surgery has become one of the most common procedures to restore stability to the spine. Even so, any type of surgery is serious. Patients should be as well informed as possible about what’s involved with the procedure.
Fusion surgery is often performed with another surgery, like decompression spine surgery, to correct a specific spinal deformity or abnormality causing pressure on nerves. A fusion may be necessary to stabilize the spine if it’s been weakened by disease or injury or if one of the discs between the bones of the spine has to be removed. Spinal instability may also be caused by:
Prior to surgery, patients are asked to stop smoking and drinking alcohol and make other efforts to remain as healthy as possible, which includes managing conditions like diabetes or high blood pressure. Doing so reduces surgical complications and increases the odds the fusion will form correctly. Certain medications may need to be stopped temporarily to avoid issues with anesthesia and post-surgery meds.
The “fusion” part of a spinal fusion actually takes place several weeks later. The procedure starts with the placement of bone graft material in a cage placed between the affected vertebrae. A synthetic bone substitute is sometimes used to create the graft. Rods, screws, and plates may also be inserted to keep the bones of the spine intact until the fusion forms.
The average hospital stay is about 3-4 days following back surgery that involves a fusion. A back brace is sometimes worn to minimize movement. A fusion will result in limited motion in the affected area of the spine, so you’ll be taught how to safely move to avoid re-injury. Physical therapy is often recommended to restore muscle strength.
More than 400,000 spinal fusions are performed in the United States each year. Advances in technology and a shift towards more minimally invasive surgical techniques have made patient outcomes more positive, although any type of spine surgery is always a last resort.
If you’re considering spinal fusion or would like a second opinion, reach out to leading Beverly Hills spine surgery center, The Spine Institute. One of our professional spine specialists can review the details of your case and provide you with all possible treatment options. Schedule an in-person consultation by calling our office at (310) 828-7757 today.