There are several different ways spinal fusion can be performed:
- The posterior approach is when the spine is accessed from the back.
- An anterior approach is when the spine is accessed through the abdomen or front of the neck.
- A lateral approach is when the spine is accessed through the side of the body.
In addition, spinal fusion can be performed using minimally invasive surgical techniques, with smaller incisions. Your doctor at Dignity Health will go over the available options with you to determine which approach is best.
Before undergoing spinal fusion surgery, your doctor may recommend alternative treatments to alleviate your pain without surgery.
Techniques including physical therapy, exercise, a healthy diet, injections, and spinal manipulations can all reduce back pain without invasive surgery.
Spinal fusion is a significant surgery for which you should mentally and physically prepare. You will want to have food prepared for your return home, all cooking/hygiene items at a high level (to avoid bending), a person to help with shopping and chores, and removal of anything on which you could trip.
Additionally, you will need transportation to and from the hospital and comfortable clothing to wear at the hospital, like a robe or slippers. You may need medical equipment such as a brace or walker, which your doctor will discuss with you ahead of time.
Before surgery, stop taking aspirin and other NSAIDs such as ibuprofen, and stop smoking two weeks before. You will complete a pre-admission evaluation that will go over a range of tests to prepare you for your post-surgery hospital stay. You will need to stop eating and drinking the night before your surgery, as per instructions from the hospital. It is essential to follow your doctor’s specific guidelines to have the best outcome possible.
After your surgery, you’ll spend three to four days recovering in the hospital. You may also spend time in a rehabilitation center, regaining range of motion and being monitored for complications.
Most people have less pain and more strength in their back after a spinal fusion procedure. You may lose some flexibility because two vertebrae in your spine are now fused and don’t move. Depending on which vertebrae are fused, you may not even notice the decrease in flexibility. Full recovery may take up to a year.
Learn about ways to reduce your risk of future spinal injury by speaking with a doctor at Dignity Health.
If you have a spinal condition that hasn’t improved with physical therapy, a back brace, or medication, spinal fusion surgery may be helpful.
Depending on your overall health and age, your doctor may recommend spinal fusion if you have chronic pain and disability due to:
- Degenerative disc disease
- Scoliosis or kyphosis (abnormal curvature of the spine)
- Spinal infections
- Spinal stenosis (narrowing of your spine)
- Spinal tumors
- Spondylolisthesis (dislocation of one vertebra over the one below it)
- Vertebral fractures
If you have pain without a known cause, it is not likely that spinal fusion surgery will help. Instead, you may want to speak with your doctor about alternative therapies, medications, and procedrues to manage pain.
The information contained in this article is meant for educational purposes only and should not replace advice from your healthcare provider.