What is Spinal Fusion Surgery?

Spinal Fusion

Spinal Surgery can be an intimidating topic, not least because there are so many kinds of procedures that fall into this category. One particular form of spinal surgery that can bring up a lot of questions is called spinal fusion surgery which falls under Minimally Invasive. If you've been told that you might require this kind of surgery because of ongoing back pain, you may feel panicked, curious, worried, and confused all at the same time. Fortunately, Coastal Neurosurgery & Spine has got your back when it comes to understanding spinal fusion surgery. Here are the answers to some frequently asked questions on the subject.

What Conditions Are Treated by Spinal Fusion Surgery?

Spinal Fusion Surgery

Spinal fusion surgery may be indicated for a number of spine pain conditions which, for whatever reason, will not respond to more conservative treatment techniques. Examples include:

  • Degenerative Disc Disease: can create severe back or neck pain as well as tingling, pain, numbness, or weakness in the limbs. Aging, flattened, bulging discs cause the intervertebral space to collapse, leading to severe arthritis, pain, stiffness, and damage to the intervertebral joints.
  • Fracture: A fracture in one or more vertebral structures may not heal normally on its own. In these cases, spinal surgery is necessary to put that part of your spine back together.
  • Scoliosis: An abnormal sideways curvature of the spine known as scoliosis can cause severe pain and other health issues if it grows too severe. Fusion surgery can correct some degree of abnormal curvature while also preventing the curvature from getting any worse. In some cases a Scoliosis Brace that we would fit for you can assist in healing and/or support.
  • Spinal Stenosis: Spinal stenosis is a condition in which bones overgrow into the spinal canal, causing nerve impingement. Your spine surgeon in CNS may perform a laminectomy or other such procedure to remove the excess bone -- but if these procedures are likely to make your spine unstable, a fusion may also be necessary.
  • Spondylolisthesis: involves slippage of one vertebra over another, causing instability, nerve impingement, and pain. Spinal fusion surgery can bring the two vertebrae back into alignment and ensure that they remain that way.

What Is the Success Rate of Spinal Fusion Surgery?

Up to 80 percent of all spinal fusion surgery patients report satisfaction with the success of the procedure. Studies of post-operative patients indicated that patients enjoyed, on average, a 60 to 70 percent reduction in their symptoms.

Is Spinal Fusion Painful?

The actual procedure is performed under a general anesthetic, so you will feel no pain during surgery. After surgery, you will have some pain for the first few weeks, but you will receive pain medication until the pain fades away on its own.

How Long Does Spinal Fusion Surgery Take?

The length of your spinal fusion surgery will depend on the severity of your condition and the number of vertebrae that must be fused. This type of surgery may extend anywhere from 2.5 hours to 7 hours in total duration.

What Are the Risks of Spinal Fusion Surgery?

Like any major surgery, spinal fusion surgery carries certain risks. These include infection, a failed fusion of the vertebrae, nerve damage, blood loss, and the normal risks associated with general anesthesia. There is also the chance that the surgery may not relieve your symptoms.

What Is the Recovery Time for Spinal Fusion Surgery?

Full recovery from a spinal fusion surgery may take up to a year. Generally, however, you should be able to return to your everyday routine within 4 to 6 months. You'll spend the first few days of recovery in the hospital. After 4 to 6 weeks, your Coastal spine surgeon will put you on a physical therapy routine to optimize your remaining recovery time, and to help ensure that you regain strength, comfort, and function.

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