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What You Can Expect From Spinal Fusion | Daytona Beach Malpractice Lawyer

What You Can Expect From Spinal Fusion

Spinal fusion is surgery to permanently connect two or more vertebrae in your spine, eliminating motion between them.

Spinal fusion involves placing extra bone (bone graft) to fill the space between two spinal vertebrae. The bone graft material used in spinal fusion may be in a preformed shape, or it may be contained within a plastic, carbon fiber or metal cage. Your surgeon may use plates, screws or rods to hold the vertebrae and graft in place to promote healing after spinal fusion. Once the bone graft heals, the vertebrae are permanently connected.

Your doctor may recommend spinal fusion if you have a broken vertebra, a spinal deformity, spinal weakness, spinal instability or chronic low back pain.


Here is what you can expect from the surgery, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Surgeons perform spinal fusion using general anesthesia, so you’re unconscious during the procedure. The anesthesiologist or anesthetist gives you an anesthetic medication as a gas — to breathe through a mask — or injects a liquid medication into a vein.

The surgical team monitors your heart rate, blood pressure and blood oxygen throughout the procedure with a blood pressure cuff on your arm and heart-monitor leads attached to your chest. After you’re unconscious, your surgeon will begin the procedure.

Surgeons have developed a variety of techniques for performing spinal fusion surgery. The technique your surgeon uses depends on the location of the vertebrae to be fused and the reason for spinal fusion. Generally, the procedure involves the following:

Bone graft preparation. The bone grafts that actually fuse two vertebrae together may come from a bone bank or from your own body, usually from a pelvic bone. If your own bone is used, the surgeon makes an incision above your pelvic bone, removes a small portion of it, and then closes the incision.

Incision. To gain access to the vertebrae being fused, the surgeon makes an incision in one of three locations: in your back directly over your spine; on either side of your spine; or in your abdomen, so your surgeon can access the spine from the front. The muscles and blood vessels then are moved away from the spine as much as possible to allow the surgeon to clearly see your spine.

Fusion. To fuse the vertebrae together permanently, the surgeon places the bone graft material between the vertebrae. Instruments such as small wire cages containing the bone graft material, as well as plates, screws or rods, may be put in place to help hold the vertebrae together while the bone graft heals.

Closure. The surgeon closes the incision using staples or stitches. In selected cases, some surgeons use a minimally invasive technique to perform spinal fusion through several smaller incisions, rather than open surgery performed through one larger incision. Minimally invasive
back surgery is complex and requires great skill. It’s not available at all hospitals.


After surgery, you’re moved to a recovery room where the health care team watches for complications from the surgery and anesthesia. Your doctor may prescribe medication to relieve pain at the incision site.

A hospital stay of three to four days is usually required following spinal fusion. Depending on the location and extent of your surgery, you may experience some pain and discomfort after spinal fusion, but the pain can usually be well controlled with medications.

Depending on your age, general physical condition and desired activity level, time to full recovery from spinal fusion surgery can range from three to six months.

After you go home, you can’t return to your normal activities until your body has fused the vertebrae solidly in place. Healing after spinal fusion is similar to healing after a broken bone. Bone healing won’t be apparent on X-rays until at least six weeks after spinal fusion.

Depending your medical condition and the the amount of lifting, walking and sitting your job involves, you may be able to return to work within four to six weeks for a sedentary job, or it may be as much as four to six months before you can return to a physically demanding job following spinal fusion.

Following surgery, your fused spine needs to be kept in proper alignment. Your doctor may recommend you wear a brace for a time following surgery to keep your spine aligned correctly. Physical rehabilitation often is also part of recovery from spinal fusion. You’ll learn how to move, sit, stand and walk in a manner that keeps your spine properly aligned. Rehabilitation may also involve back-strengthening exercises and a cardiovascular (aerobic)
conditioning program. You may be able to start a physical rehabilitation program about four weeks after spinal fusion surgery.


Once the bone graft placed during spinal fusion surgery fully heals, the bone is unlikely to break down. Because of this, spinal fusion is typically an effective, long-term treatment for broken vertebrae, spinal deformities, spinal instability and spondylolisthesis.

Spinal fusion usually doesn’t eliminate all back pain. If you had chronic back pain prior to spinal fusion, it’s likely you will continue to have some pain, but less than before. Your pain may be further reduced by staying in good physical condition and exercising regularly.

A fused spine doesn’t protect against developing other problem areas in your spine. If you have a strong family history of back pain, if you’re obese or if you’re in poor physical condition, you may be at increased risk of additional spinal problems. Unfortunately, those
problems could require treatment in the future. For a few individuals, that may include more spine surgery.

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