Spinal fusion is a surgery that involves the fusion of two or more individual vertebrae into a singularly functioning piece.
The goal of this procedure is to relieve back pain that is caused by spinal damage. Spinal fusion is called several different things but the overall procedure is utilizing extra bone or a similar material to fill in the space between the vertebrae. This process mimics the way that the body naturally heals spinal injuries.
Who Is A Candidate?
Spinal fusions can be used to treat a variety of orthopedic and neurological conditions. One of the most common reasons that patients are recommended for this procedure is that they a broken vertebra broken vertebrae. If the broken vertebra doesn’t heal properly on its own or if it seems that the overall structure of the spine will be weaker, the patient may benefit from a spinal fusion. Another common condition that is treated with this procedure is herniated disc. These are removed relatively often but doing so can sometimes create a weak point in the spine, which can be stabilized with a fusion.
The above circumstances are both acute conditions, but there are also some chronic conditions which this procedure can provide relief for as well. For example, patients with scoliosis or kyphosis, both of which involve abnormal spine structure, may achieve some shape correction through a fusion. Spondylolisthesis patients may also achieve relief with a spinal fusion. This condition causes one vertebra to slip down into the other but fusing the problematic vertebrae together can help prevent this. As with any procedure, the physician will have to weigh the potential benefits against the potential risks, but the risks are generally considered mild. Patients who are prone to blood clots or at high risk for infection may not be recommended for surgery.
How Is It Performed?
Prior to the surgery, the physician should advise the patient of specific details about how to prepare for it. This will include what medications should be paused among other considerations. Upon arrival, the medical team will prepare the area by removing hair and sterilizing the surgical site. This procedure is performed under general anesthesia so the patient will not be aware once it begins. There are many variations in the techniques that the surgeon can utilize that will be influenced by the reason for surgery and type of damage that the vertebrae have. The procedure will also be influenced by what material the surgeon will be using to fuse the vertebrae. If they are using a piece of the patient’s own bone, they will have to attain that from the hip first. Then the physician will make the incision that allows them access to the spine. The bone will be placed between the appropriate vertebrae. This will then be secured with metal plates and rods.
What Is The Recovery Process?
Most patients will need to stay in the hospital for a couple of days following the surgery. Once they have been released to go home, some may need a supportive brace for a little while, but this will depend on the location of the fusion. Some patients may also benefit from physical therapy if they find that certain activities are difficult to adjust to.