What Is Spinal Fusion Surgery and How Long Does It Take?

Maybe you’ve been suffering for months with severe, debilitating back pain and your doctor mentions spinal surgery  or a spinal fusion for relief. If he or she mentioned fusion, you’re probably wondering what is spinal fusion surgery and what to expect after it.

Through our state-of-the-art Spine Center, we have the technology and experienced surgeons to correct or repair any spinal problems. We’ll take a closer look at spinal fusion and how it has helped hundreds of patients by alleviating back pain.

What Is Spinal Fusion Surgery?

It’s impossible to talk about spinal fusion without going over basic anatomy of the spine.

The spinal cord is made up of several nerves that send messages from your brain to various parts of your body. Vertebrae, also known as the “backbone” are the bones that protect this cord.

At least, that’s the way everything is supposed to work.

The spine and the bones that comprise it can become unstable due to a lot of reasons. Sometimes it may be caused by natural aging or arthritis. In other cases, diseases and injuries can cause instability.

As a result, these small bones need to be “welded” together to provide relief. This stops the motion between vertebrae and—since the painful vertebrae cannot move– it can relieve your pain.

What Back Problems Can Be Resolved Through Spinal Fusion?

There are several different causes of back pain, and when your doctor pinpoints the underlying cause of the discomfort, he or she can provide an accurate diagnosis.

Spinal fusion can help alleviate pain caused by:

  • Degenerative disk disease
    Between your vertebrae are disks that act as cushions between these bones. However, with age, they break down and can cause pain or a “bad back.”
  • Spondylolisthesis
    This is a condition caused by spondylolysis.

We know. Those are two complicated terms—and it doesn’t clarify matters that they look a lot alike. We’ll break them down for you.

Spondylolysis occurs when there’s a crack or fracture of the vertebrae. Typically, this is the result of a sports injury or any activity that causes continual stress on the lower back.

Over time, this weakens the vertebra so that they shift around and out of place. When they start to shift, this condition is called spondylolisthesis.

  • Spinal Stenosis
    This occurs when the spinal column narrows, and it can cause intense pain.
  • Scoliosis
    This happens when the spine curves from side to side and is often seen in children.
  • Fractured vertebra
    Several things can cause broken vertebrae, including accidents and osteoporosis.
  • Infections
  • Herniated disks
    The vertebrae are cushioned by disks in the back. When these slip or are pushed out of place, they can bulge or rupture, causing pain.
  • Tumors

How Long Does Spinal Fusion Surgery Take?

This depends upon your individual situation including how many of the vertebrae are fused and the extent of the damage. It can also depend upon what type of disease has affected them.

It can take as little as three hours or as long as seven, depending upon your situation.

What to Expect After Spinal Fusion Surgery

You’ll likely have to stay in the hospital between one and three days. We’ll be able to effectively manage your pain with medication.

You should contact your doctor and let us know if you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Drainage coming from the wound
  • Redness at the site
  • Tenderness and swelling
  • Chills
  • A fever higher than 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit

You should also realize that spinal fusion is a process: It may take months for the bones in your back to properly fuse together. This means you may have to wear a brace. This brace will help ensure that your spine is correctly aligned.

Physical therapy can also be useful to help you move, sit and walk in a way that keeps your back aligned.

Will I Be Able to Move My Back Easily After Spinal Fusion Surgery?

Yes! While fusion will limit some flexibility, you’ll keep most of your range of motion. This is because spinal fusion spine surgery only involves small pieces of your spine.

We Have the Experienced Surgeons You Need at Our Spine Center

We’ve gathered the best team—from physicians to anesthesiologists to physical therapists– to help you throughout spinal surgery and the entire process. We encourage you to sign up for one of our Spine and Neck Pain Seminars that will provide all the information you need.

Let us provide you with freedom from pain so you can enjoy your life again. Contact us today.