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Spinal Fusion Surgery

Spinal fusion surgery treats instability in the back and neck from severe arthritis, degenerative disc disease or spinal fractures.

A spinal fusion is a bony bridge between at least two other bones; in this case, two vertebrae in your spine. The vertebrae are the blocks of bone that are the weight-bearing portion of the spine.  Imagine a child's building blocks stacked on top of each other to make a tower. Normally, each vertebra moves within certain limits in relationship to its neighbors.

Back Instability

In spinal disease, the movement may become excessive and painful, or the vertebrae may become unstable and move out of alignment, putting pressure on the spinal nerves.

When this happens, our surgeons try to build bony bridges between the vertebrae using pieces of bone called bone graft. The bone graft may be obtained from the patient, (usually from the pelvis), or from a bone bank.

The bone graft is either laid next to the vertebrae or actually placed between the vertebral bodies (the rubbery disc that normally lies between the vertebrae must be removed). In either case, the bone graft has to heal and fuse to the adjacent bones before the fusion becomes solid. Spine surgeons often use screws and rods to protect the bone graft and stabilize the spine while the fusion heals. 

Spinal Fusion Surgery: What to Expect

Spine surgeons perform fusion in order to encourage the bones to grow together.  Our surgeons perform the surgery in conjunction with bone grafts and screws and rods to increase the fusion rate.  When possible, your spinal surgeon will recommend a minimally invasive approach.

Many patients find their motion is even better after spinal fusion surgery because of less pain. They are able to perform their daily activities easily post-surgery.

Recovery: Spinal Fusion Surgery

If you had a minimally invasive spinal fusion surgery, your recovery will be faster than traditional, open surgery. However, you are still healing so you need to remember to take it easy.

After surgery, our nurses will make sure to move you from the bed to a recliner .  Studies prove that patients recover much more quickly when they get up and walk around shortly after surgery. This improves blood flow and healing.

You can probably expect to return to light activities two to three weeks following surgery.  About four to six weeks after surgery, you should be able to return to all of your regular activities.