Spinal fusion refers to an orthopedic procedure used to permanently join two or more vertebrae (bones) in the spine. Its main function is to weld the problematic vertebrae together, creating a strong, solid bone as it heals.
Generally, doctors perform this operation to eliminate pain when moving, which is usually caused by instability or deformity in the vertebrae.
If you’re scheduled to have this kind of surgery, then you’re probably curious about what happens while you’re on the table. So, here are some of the things you need to do or expect before, during, and after the operation.
Spinal fusion, also known as arthrodesis, is typically performed to relieve the symptoms of several spinal conditions. It involves connecting two vertebrates together through bone grafting, removing mobility in the area to reduce pain, instability, and the risk of further injury.
Generally, doctors recommend a spinal fusion for patients with back problems that do not get better with conservative treatment options. Some examples of such diseases include:
When you have the conditions mentioned above, you may find significant pain relief after a spinal fusion surgery. It may decrease your range of motion or flexibility, but it won’t entirely affect your movements and ability to perform activities.
An orthopedic doctor will diagnose your spinal condition through your symptoms, medical history, and physical examination. Your doctor will also utilize imaging procedures to confirm their diagnoses, such as X-rays, CT scans, and MRIs.
Initially, your doctor will try to relieve your symptoms using non-invasive methods, such as medications, injectables, and physical therapy. If these techniques fail, your doctor will then recommend a spinal fusion surgery.
Your doctor will order a series of laboratory tests to ensure you’re healthy enough to undergo such a procedure. Some of the things you can do to prepare for your operation include:
Most spinal fusion surgeries are performed using minimally invasive techniques, thus allowing it to be an outpatient procedure. This means that you can go home on the day of your surgery only if there are no complications detected.
Before the procedure, your doctor will put you under general anesthesia, which means that you’ll be in a sleep-like state and won’t feel any pain. Here’s a play-by-play on how your surgeon will perform a spinal fusion:
The whole procedure takes at least two to three hours, depending on the patient’s back problem. Sometimes, it may take longer (up to 7 hours) for complicated or severe cases.
After the surgery, you will be taken into a recovery room where healthcare providers monitor your vitals and condition. For a minimally invasive spinal fusion, patients may be discharged after a few hours of recuperation in the recovery area. But for open surgeries and complex cases, the patient may need to stay in the facility for at least three days.
Right after the procedure, it’s normal to feel pain, soreness, and general discomfort as part of the healing process. Your physician will prescribe pain relievers and other medications to deal with these temporary effects. Some of the do’s and dont’s your doctor may instruct you to do include:
With proper post-operative care and rehabilitation, you will gradually regain your strength and ability to perform light activities. Your doctor will clear you on what activities you can safely resume.
Generally, patients achieve full recovery four to six months after the surgery. Of course, this will still depend on the patient’s age, overall physical condition, and underlying medical illnesses.
The Orthopaedic Surgery Center of Panther Creek is one of the most trusted outpatient surgery centers in Cary. Our board-certified physicians are equipped with advanced sub-specialty training to provide different treatment options for various orthopedic conditions.
If you have any questions regarding spinal fusion surgery, don’t hesitate to give us a call at 919-582-3050.
The material contained on this site is for informational purposes only and DOES NOT CONSTITUTE THE PROVIDING OF MEDICAL ADVICE, and is not intended to be a substitute for independent professional medical judgment, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your health.