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Preparing for Spinal Fusion in Central California

Spinal fusion — also called spinal fusion surgery or arthrodesis — connects two vertebrae in your neck or spine to permanently stop movement between them. The surgery is usually performed to relieve pain and improve your back and neck functions.

If you are experiencing considerable pain in your back or neck, Find a Doctor at Dignity Health Central California for personal care and advice on how to best address the problem. You may need surgery if noninvasive treatments do not provide relief. Our highly skilled neurosurgeons can explain the risks and benefits of available surgical treatments, such as spinal fusion, in Central California.


Reasons for Spinal Fusion Surgery

Spinal fusion is sometimes recommended to relieve chronic pain and disability caused by: 

  • Scoliosis or kyphosis (abnormal spinal curvatures)
  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Spinal stenosis (narrowing)
  • Spinal infections
  • Spondylolisthesis (dislocation of a vertebra over the one below it)
  • Vertebral fractures
  • Spinal tumors

Your doctor may recommend surgery if other treatments — physical therapy, back braces, medications — do not work for you. Ask your doctor about minimally invasive surgery, which has a faster recovery period and causes less pain than traditional open surgery.


Spinal Fusion Surgery at Dignity Health Central California

During the procedure, your surgeon will join two vertebrae using a bone graft. New bone will grow around the graft in the months following your surgery.

You will need to wear a neck or back brace for at least a few weeks after surgery, as your body grows enough new bone to permanently fuse your vertebrae. Physical therapy may be prescribed to help learn how to move, walk, sit, and stand in ways that protect your spine.

Expect a three or four day stay in the hospital after your surgery. Full recovery from spinal fusion may take up to a year.

Risks of spinal fusion surgery include:

  • Bleeding
  • Blood clots
  • Infections
  • Reaction to anesthesia
  • Nerve or blood vessel damage
  • Continuing or worsening symptoms
  • Occasional return of spinal problems
  • Pseudarthrosis — a condition where not enough new bone growth occurs to support the bone graft


Life After Spinal Fusion

After successful spinal fusion surgery, you will experience less pain and more strength in your back and neck. However, you may also lose some flexibility. It is important to remember that spinal fusion surgery will not prevent future spine problems.

Follow these tips to avoid further spine problems:

  • Strengthen your back and neck muscles with recommended exercises.
  • Avoid repetitive movements that put stress on your back, such as gardening.
  • Use proper mechanics when lifting heavy objects.
  • Practice good posture.
  • Maintain a healthy body weight.

Our team of neurosurgeons are skilled in the latest surgical techniques. Learn more about neurology services at our Central California hospitals:

Dignity Health Central California offers personalized surgical treatments, including spinal fusion surgery in Bakersfield, Merced, San Andreas, and Stockton, CA.