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Spine Fusion Surgery

Spinal fusion is a surgical procedure performed to permanently connect two or more vertebrae in the spine in order to improve stability, correct a deformity or treat severe back pain.

During spine fusion surgery, two or more vertebrae are joined into one single structure without any space between them. The aim is to stop movement between the two bones and hence eliminate back pain. Once the bones are fused, they stop moving and this keeps you from stretching nearby nerves, ligaments, and muscles that may have caused discomfort initially.

Why is it done?

Your doctor may recommend spinal fusion when medications and physical therapy have failed to treat severe back pain and if the exact reason for the pain is known to the doctor. The surgery can be a solution to the following conditions:

  • Broken vertebrae - If your spinal column becomes unstable due to the fracture of one of the vertebrae, spinal fusion surgery may become necessary.
  • Deformities of the spine - Spinal fusion can help correct deformities in the spine like the abnormal sideways curvature of the spine (scoliosis) or abnormal rounding of the upper spine (kyphosis).
  • Severe arthritis - Severe arthritic condition may cause instability and weakness in the spinal column.
  • Spondylolisthesis - This is a disorder which causes the forward shifting of a spinal vertebra onto the bone below it.  The condition may cause severe back pain with pain and numbness in the legs.
  • Herniated disk - Spine fusion surgery may be performed to stabilize the spinal column after the removal of a herniated or diseased vertebra.

The procedure

The whole procedure may take several hours.

  • The spine fusion surgeon will prepare the bone graft which may be either a bone removed from the patient’s body itself or a synthetic bone.
  • Depending on where the bone should be fused, the surgeon will make an incision for placing the bone graft.
  • Once the bone graft is in place, it will be fixed securely by using plates, screws, and rods which provides added stability and fastens healing.

Risks involved

Like any other surgical procedure, spinal fusion has certain risks involved like:

  • Infection at the surgical site
  • Bleeding at the site
  • Blood clots
  • Injury to nerves or blood vessels in the spinal region.
  • Severe pain or infection at the site from which the bone graft is taken for the surgery

By means of spine fusion surgery, the working of your spine will be altered as stress from the fused vertebrae is shifted to other areas of the spine. This extra stress may cause more wear and tear in the vertebrae on either side of the fusion joint. This might lead to further damage and pain in the spinal column.

Recovery

Your doctor will advise you on new ways to move, since your flexibility may be limited post surgery.

After leaving the hospital you may need to wear a brace to support your spine. The complete fusing of bone may take up to six weeks or longer depending on the various health conditions of the patient. Full recovery from spinal fusion will require six to twelve months.

 

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