Spinal Fusion is a specialized surgical procedure characterized by permanent merging of two or more adjoining vertebrae. This includes placement of bone graft between the affected vertebrae for bone growth, followed by external support using metal plates, rods, and screws. The spinal fusion surgery is considered a major surgery and may take several hours to perform. The goal of spinal fusion surgery is to maintain spine stability, correct spinal deformities and also reduce pain in the affected spine area.
Spinal fusion surgery is usually recommended for abnormal spine conditions such as fractured vertebrae, spine deformities, disc herniation, degenerative disc disease, severe back pain, spondylolisthesis, spinal stenosis, tumor and infection.
The basic steps involved in spinal fusion surgery include scrubbing the site of surgery, followed by a precise incision over the affected vertebrae. The surrounding muscles and blood vessels are moved aside to uncover the vertebrae to be treated. The bone graft to be inserted is prepared, either taken from the bone bank (cadaver bone) or from the pelvic bone of the patient. If taken from the patient’s body then a small incision is made over the pelvic bone and a small portion of the pelvic bone is removed and incision is closed. Some surgeons prefer artificial materials such as bone morphogenetic proteins (BMPs) over natural bone grafts, for inducing bone growth between the fused vertebrae.
After the bone graft is inserted between the two affected vertebrae, they are permanently fused together with instrumentation such as metal plates, screws and rods. Finally, muscles and blood vessels are placed back to their original positions and the incision is closed.
After surgery patients usually stay in the hospital for 2-3 days. It may take several months for complete healing and recovery of the spine fusion patient. Your physician may recommend wearing a brace for proper alignment of the spine during the healing process. Patients are also advised to participate in a rehabilitation program for improved outcomes.
Although spinal fusion is a very safe procedure, some possible complications associated with spinal fusion surgery are infection, bleeding, blood clots, associated nerve injuries, and pain at the site of graft insertion. Talk to your surgeon about any questions or concerns you may have prior to undergoing spinal fusion surgery.