Spinal Fusion

What is Spinal Fusion Surgery?

A spinal fusion surgery is performed to relieve pressure from the nerve that cause pain. Either the spinal canal has shrunk, or the spine is misaligned, causing the nerves to be pinched. Restoring the alignment of the spine, or the space between vertebrae, will relieve pressure on the nerves. Once that has been done, the spine will be stabilized and fused to prevent further damage. The type of spinal fusion approach is dependent on the condition of your spine. There is the anterior approach and the posterior approach.

Spinal Fusion Recovery Process

The amount of time necessary to recover from a spinal fusion surgery depends on the overall health of the patient in question. Spinal fusion of the bone grafts of artificial discs can take up to one year. Some factors that hinder the spinal fusion recovery process include smoking, secondhand smoke and various medications.

Am I a Candidate for Spinal Fusion?

Spinal Fusion surgery should not be performed if:

  • Obese
  • Pregnant
  • Alcohol or Drug Abusers
  • Active or Systemic Infections
  • Mentally Ill
  • Severe Osteoporosis
  • Sensitive / Allergic to Metals
  • Sensitive / Allergic to Polymers, Polyethylene, Polycarbonate Urethane and Polyethylene terephthalate
  • Soft tissue Deficit
  • Congenital Abnormalities
  • Tumors
  • Inadequate Pedicles of the Thoracic, Lumbar and Sacral Vertebrae

Spine fusion surgery is compatible with conventional surgical techniques, and in some cases, can be implanted using a minimally invasive approach. A typical spine fusion procedure takes two to three hours which is similar to the time required for traditional fusion procedures.

Before Surgery: Eating well-balanced, nutritional meals in the weeks before your spinal fusion surgery will help the healing process. Additionally, smokers should quit the practice in the weeks before surgery. If there are other complications, Dr. Moza will recommend them before your surgery.

After Surgery: The first step in recovery involves the healing of the soft tissues and incisions, which will occur in the first few weeks after the procedure. Walking is a great method to aid the healing process, and patients can expect to start walking as soon as the day after surgery. Physical or occupational therapy may be required for ease of mobility.

Anterior Approach

An anterior approach for spinal fusion surgery will require an incision in the abdomen, instead of the back. Anterior approaches to spinal fusion surgery used to require large abdominal incisions and dissections in order to gain access to the spine. This required a lot of healing time, and postoperative pain. However, an anterior approach involves a minimally invasive status. A 3-5 inch incision is made below the belly button. Once access to the spine has been achieved, the degenerated disc is usually removed, which allows the disc space to return to its original height. This procedure will allow the decompression of the nerve roots. A bone graft, artificial disc or other instrument would be used to supplement the loss of the removed disc.

Posterior Approach

A posterior approach for spinal fusion surgery will require an incision in the back. Posterior approaches to spinal fusion surgery achieve the same results as an anterior approach, but go directly to the spine. If a posterior approach is ideal, then the pedicle screw system will be used to stabilize the spine throughout the healing process. As in the anterior approach, the degenerated disc is removed and replaced with bone grafts or other instruments. The screws are placed through each side of the vertebrae in the part of the bone called the pedicle. Rods are attached to the screws and hold the spine in its new position.

Risk and Complications

After a spinal fusion surgery, if you have any of the following symptoms, you should contact Dr. Moza immediately:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Redness around the incision
  • Increased pain
  • A feeling of pressure in the spine
  • Bleeding or excessive drainage from the incision
  • Sudden pain, or a significant increase in your pain level
  • Loss of feeling in your hands or feet
  • Increased or ongoing shortness of breath

Surgery always involves some risk. General surgical complications may include: Reactions to anesthesia, heart attack, infection, blood vessel damage/bleeding, bruise or a hematoma, postoperative pneumonia, blood clots, wound closure problems, or even death.

You should note:

An evaluation of the bone fusion will be a regular checkup after the spinal fusion surgery. X-rays will be taken to see how the bone is fusing. During these checkups, Dr. Moza will advise you on methods to help aid your recovery. Back pain is a common symptom after a spinal fusion surgery. Medication will often be prescribed to alleviate that pain.
Note:If the pain is more severe than what you were told to expect, contact Dr. Moza immediately.

Most patients can expect to return to daily activities, like work, roughly six weeks after the procedure. A complete fusion can take months, and full recovery time is dependent on each patient’s overall health.

For most patients, spinal fusion surgery offers significant relief and improved ability to move and function in their daily lives. Postoperative pain can take several weeks, but any leg pain is expected to be alleviated immediately. A short hospital stay is generally required to ensure that the patient is on the right track to recovery. It is important that you follow postoperative instructions in order to ensure your healing is accurate.