Spinal fusion joins two vertebrae in the back or neck. It permanently stops any movement between them. It is also called vertebral interbody fusion or arthrodesis. The goal of spinal fusion is to restore function and reduce pain in the neck or back.
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Why is Spinal Fusion Performed?
Spinal fusion may be an option if nonsurgical treatments, including back braces, physical therapy, and medications, haven’t worked to reduce your pain and disability. Your doctor may recommend spinal fusion if you have:
- Kyphosis or scoliosis, abnormal curvatures of the spine
- Degenerative disc disease
- Spinal stenosis
- Spinal infections
- Spondylolisthesis, dislocation of one vertebra over the one below it
- Vertebral fractures
- Spinal tumors
Ask your doctor if you are a good candidate for minimally invasive surgery. It can involve less pain and faster recovery open surgery.
What to Expect During Spinal Fusion Surgery
Spinal fusion can be an open procedure with a large incision or minimally invasive with a few small incisions. Your surgeon will join two vertebrae using a bone graft. Grafts may come from your own body, a cadaver, or they can be synthetic. Your body grows new bone around the graft over several months.
You will spend three to four days in the hospital after surgery. Some people also need time in a rehabilitation center.
It takes time for enough bone to form around the graft to permanently fuse your vertebrae. You will need to wear a back or neck brace for several weeks after surgery. Physical therapy will also be part of your recovery. You will learn how to stand, sit, walk, and move in ways that protect your spine. Full recovery may take up to a year.
Recovering After Spinal Fusion at Dignity Health - St. Rose Dominican Hospitals
After spinal fusion, most people have more strength in their backs and experience less pain. However, you may lose some flexibility.
Spinal fusion cannot prevent future spine problems. You can avoid more problems and protect your spine by:
- Practicing good posture
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Using proper body mechanics when lifting heavy objects
- Avoiding repetitive movements that put stress on your back or neck, such as gardening
- Strengthening your back and neck muscles with recommended exercises
Dignity Health - St. Rose Dominican surgeons perform spinal fusion in Las Vegas and Henderson, NV.