Spinal fusion is surgery to permanently connect two or more vertebrae in your spine, eliminating motion between them. This is done by placing an additional section of bone in the space between the vertebrae, usually taken from the hip or donated bone. This helps to prevent excessive movements between 2 adjacent vertebrae, lowering the risk of further irritation or compression of the nearby nerves and reducing pain and related symptoms.
Spinal fusion can be a very good treatment for some spinal conditions; however, it does not return your spine to “normal” as the normal spine has some degree of motion between vertebrae. To improve the chance of fusion being successful, some surgeons may use screws and connecting rods to secure the bones.
Spinal fusion may be performed for a variety of different reasons including:
Things you can do to prepare weeks prior to your surgery
Pre-operative assessment clinic
When your surgery is completed, you will be moved to the recovery room where you will be observed and monitored by a nurse until you awake from the anaesthetic. You will then be transferred to a ward where the ward team will work closely with you to aid your recovery.
You will have a drip for intravenous fluids through a vein into your arm or hand which will continue for a number of hours after your surgery. You may eat when you are fully awake but we advise that you start with sips of water and then a light meal.
You may have a catheter inserted into your bladder to make urination easier. There may be a drain tube in your back which is normally taken out 1-2 days after surgery.
The immediate discomfort following spinal fusion is generally greater than with other types of spinal surgery. Fortunately, there are excellent methods of pain control available for after your surgery and your anaesthetist and nurse will work closely with you to manage your pain.
You will get out of bed and on your feet the day after surgery. This is safe and it is the best way to get your muscles moving and prevent postoperative complications. A nurse or physiotherapist will be with you to advise you on how to move your back carefully and comfortably.
Recovery following fusion surgery is generally longer than for other types of spinal surgery. Patients normally stay in hospital for 4-6 days but a longer stay after more extensive surgery is not uncommon. You will gradually increase your movement over your stay.
You will not be discharged until all the members of the team who treated you are confident that you are well enough.
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