Understanding Spinal Fusion

If you have been living with back pain, spinal fusion surgery may be the relief you have been seeking. This surgical process fuses the problem vertebrae together into a single solid bone so that you know longer have the alignment and pain issues that you had previously. The following FAQ can better help you understand the procedure.

What conditions may necessitate spinal fusion?

Generally, spinal fusion is used for diseases or conditions that result in degeneration of the bones or disks, or for those that cause damage or chronic pain to the spine. Examples include spine fractures, degenerative disk disease, scoliosis, and infections or tumors that have damaged the spine.

How is a fusion performed?

Spinal fusion requires a bone graft. Your surgeon will use the graft to fuse the vertebrae together. In most cases the graft will come from your body, typically the pelvis. If for some reason it isn't possible to use your own bone, then a donor bone graft will be used.

Will there be an incision?

There will be at least one incision, although the size depends on the way your surgeon decides to approach the spine. If the spine must be approached from the front, it is typically a full incision in the abdomen. For surgeries that allow your surgeon to approach from the back, orthoscopic procedures are often possible so you will only end up with a couple of small incisions. The size and number of decisions, along with whether orthodcopic surgery is an option, all depend on your individual case.

There will also be a small incision on the pelvis for the bone graft, if applicable.

What does recovery entail?

Your spine will need to be immobilized as the graft takes hold and completes the fusion. Your surgeon may prescribe you a back brace to wear as you heal to meet this purpose. You will also be placed on a regimen of limited movement as you heal, so you will likely be unable to work. How long the recovery will take will depend on your age, health, and the extent of your surgery. These are questions you will need to discuss with your surgeon both before surgery and then again once you begin recovery.

Are there any risks associated with a spinal fusion?

There are the common risks associated with any surgery, including blood clots or a reaction to the anesthesia. Following all pre-operation and post-operation care advice will greatly minimize these risks. In rare cases, the bone graft may not take. This means that you will either have to continue to live with the pain or you will need to have the surgery a second time.

Before committing to surgery to treat your back pain, talk with a chiropractor, like those at Health Atlast Fountain Valley. They can help you explore non-surgical options that may provide relief.

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