What is a Spinal Fusion?

Spinal Fusion

Spinal fusion is surgery that joins two or more spine bones to limit movement, reducing pain. During the surgery, bone or a bone-like substance is inserted between two spinal bones by the surgeon. Metal plates, screws, or rods may be used to secure the bones, allowing them to fuse and heal as a single bone.

What is the purpose of Spinal Fusion?

Spinal fusion joins two or more bones in the spine for stability, correction of issues, or pain reduction. It’s also used to:

  • Alter the spine's shape - Spinal fusion can address structural issues in the spine, such as sideways curvature, commonly known as scoliosis.
  • Weakness or instability in the spine - Excessive movement between two spinal bones can cause instability in the spine, often due to severe arthritis. Spinal fusion helps stabilize the spine in such cases.
  • Fractured Disk - Spinal fusion may be employed to stabilize the spine following the removal of a damaged or fractured disk.

Is there a risk?

Though Spinal fusion is safe and effective. As with any surgery, it also carries some risks. Possible complications are:

Returning Symptoms

  • Wounds heals poorer or delayed
  • Infection
  • Blood Clot
  • Bleeding
  • Discomfort and pain at the bone graft site.
  • Damage to blood vessels or nerves in the vicinity of the spine.

What to expect in a Spinal Fusion?

Posterior Cervical Fusion

  • During posterior cervical fusion, where spinal fusion is performed from the back of the neck, rods and screws are utilized to secure the bones in place.

Anterior Cervical Discectomy and fusion

  • Occasionally, surgery on the spinal bones of the neck is conducted from the front. In this scenario, a damaged disk is extracted, a bone graft is implanted, and plates and screws are employed to stabilize the bones. This procedure is referred to as anterior discectomy and fusion.

Anterior and posterior lumbar spinal fusions

  • A surgeon can access the spine from the front, termed anterior spinal fusion, or from the back, known as posterior spinal fusion. In both approaches, metal plates, rods, or screws are utilized to maintain bone alignment until healing occurs.

Spinal fusion is typically performed under general anesthesia, rendering the individual unconscious during the procedure. The surgical approach varies based on the location of the affected spinal bones, the underlying reason for fusion, and potentially, the patient's overall health and physique.

General procedures involves the following;

  • Getting to the spine rephrase
  • To access the bones targeted for fusion, the surgeon makes incisions in one of three locations. From the posterior approach, these incisions are made in the neck or back directly over the spine or on either side of the spine. When accessing the spine from the anterior direction, the surgeon makes incisions in the abdominal area or throat.

  • Getting the bone graft ready
  • Bone grafts can be obtained from a bone bank or harvested from the patient's body, typically from the pelvis. Alternatively, surgeons may utilize synthetic materials instead of bone grafts. If using the patient's bone, the surgeon makes an incision near the pelvic bone, extracts a small portion, and then sutures the incision.

  • Fusion
  • To facilitate the fusion of spinal bones, the surgeon inserts bone graft material between them. Metal plates, screws, or rods may be utilized to aid in stabilizing the bones during the healing process of the bone graft.

    After the surgery

    Typically, patients undergoing spinal fusion require a hospital stay of two to three days. Pain and discomfort may occur, depending on the surgery's scope and location, but medication is generally effective in managing these symptoms.

    Recovery from spinal fusion can span several months as the affected bones in your spine heal and fuse. Your physician might advise wearing a brace temporarily to maintain proper spinal alignment. Additionally, physical therapy can educate you on posture and movement techniques to ensure spine alignment during various activities.

    Wear a Bone Growth Stimulator

    Many orthopedists recommend bone growth stimulators as a technology to expedite bone healing. These devices offer painless electrical or ultrasound stimulation to encourage bone growth.

    Bone growth stimulators are beneficial for patients after spinal fusion surgery because they promote faster bone healing. By providing painless electrical or ultrasound stimulation, these devices encourage the growth of new bone tissue, helping the fused spinal bones to heal and integrate more effectively. This can lead to improved outcomes, reduced recovery times, and enhanced overall recovery for patients undergoing spinal fusion surgery.

    For more information regarding bone stimulators, click this link here or browse our store!

    Results after the fusion

    Spinal fusion is typically effective for repairing fractures, realigning the spine, or enhancing stability. However, research findings are inconsistent when the cause of back or neck pain is uncertain. In such cases, spinal fusion often demonstrates similar efficacy to nonsurgical interventions. Moreover, while spinal fusion may alleviate symptoms, it doesn't address the underlying cause of conditions like arthritis, which is a common source of back pain. Additionally, immobilizing segments of the spine can increase strain on adjacent areas, potentially accelerating degeneration and necessitating future surgical interventions.

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