What is Spinal Fusion?
This is surgery that enables the bones in the lower back to grow together so there is no longer any motion between them. Spinal fusion is usually done to alleviate low back pain.
Why is it Done?
Many people suffer from low back pain, and the majority will find relief with pain killers or therapeutic exercise. However, spinal surgery may be recommended under these circumstances:
- Your spine is weak or unstable
- You have fractured vertebrae
- Your spine has deformities
- You have a herniated disc
- You have chronic spine pain and conservative treatment has not helped
How to Prepare
Prior to the procedure, you will meet with your doctor and be given pre-operative instructions. These will include how long you should fast before the surgery and what medications you should temporarily stop taking. Be sure to bring a list of questions and talk to your surgeon about any concerns you have. Since your surgery requires a bone graft, you will need to determine if the graft will come from your own bones or from a bone bank.
What to Expect
For this surgery, you will be under general anesthesia. Your surgeon will make an incision in one of three places: in your abdomen, directly over your spine, or on one side of your spine. The incision will allow access to the vertebrae being fused together. The surgeon will place the bone graft material between the vertebrae. Then it will be held in place by screws, rods, or plates as the graft heals. Then the surgeon will use stitches or staples to close the incision. Learn more about BayCare's Spine Care Centers.
After the procedure, you will probably stay in the hospital for a few days. Any discomfort you feel can be treated with pain medications. It will take as long as six weeks for your graft to heal, and then you may need a few months to fully recover.
Your doctor may recommend that you wear a back brace for some time after the surgery, and you may also need physical therapy. This practice will help you learn how to keep your spine in alignment, and it will help you work on strength and flexibility.