Spinal fusion is a surgical procedure that’s performed to correct problems with the spinal vertebrae. The goal of a spinal fusion is to fuse together the affected portion of the vertebrae so that it can heal into a single, solid bone. The vertebrae is fused using a bone graft or a bone graft substitute which fuses with the natural bone over time.
Spinal fusion is performed to relieve chronic pain, decreased range of motion and other symptoms when more conservative approaches have not been effective. It’s often performed in patients with conditions like:
Spinal fusion is often performed following spinal surgery like foraminotomy or laminectomy which remove a portion of the spine in order to relieve nerve compression and its symptoms, or after disc removal.
Different techniques can be used to perform spinal fusion surgery depending on the condition being treated, the patient’s age and health, and other factors. In general, spinal fusion may be performed using open surgery techniques with large incisions or minimally-invasive methods with small incisions. The incision may be made through the abdomen or throat (anterior approach) or through the back (posterior approach). Once the treatment site is exposed, damaged areas are removed or treated and the graft is placed in position and secured. It can take several months for the graft to completely fuse with the bone.
Most patients remain in the hospital for several days following surgery. Physical therapy typically begins while the patient is still in the hospital and continues for months afterward to help the spine regain mobility and function. Pain medication will be provided during the initial stages of healing to relieve discomfort and a back brace may also be recommended to provide additional support and to relieve strain on the back while it heals.