Spinal fusion is a minimally invasive surgical procedure where two or more vertebrae in the spine are fused together in order to reduce motion between the vertebrae that are causing pain. Spinal fusion surgery is also commonly used to correct a deformity or to address a fracture. Additionally, this surgery can be done to address spinal stenosis, or the narrowing of the spinal column.
At Hunt Spine, spinal fusion is often performed along with other surgeries, such as surgery to remove bone or tissue that is putting pressure on the spinal cord and spinal nerves. It may also be performed as a follow-up surgery to stabilize the spine after a procedure to address issues such as arthritis or a spinal tumor or infection. All told, there are many uses for spinal fusion that regularly help patients get the relief they deserve.
Frequently Asked Questions
Get answers to the most frequently asked questions about spine surgery, including what to expect and who the best candidates for back surgery are.Learn more
Lumbar Spinal Fusion
Lumbar spinal fusion is a surgical procedure where two or more vertebrae in the lower back are fused together.
Excessive motion between lumbar vertebrae may cause pain and limit normal mobility and functionality. Conditions that may benefit from lumbar spinal fusion are:
- Lumbar Degenerative Disc Disease
- Lumbar Spondylolisthesis
There are two primary types of lumbar spinal fusion, both of which rely on the growth of new bone.
- Bone may be taken from a bone bank or from a person’s own pelvic bone. This bone is then used as a bridge between the vertebrae that are being fused together. This graft encourages new bone growth and over time will create a fusion, resulting in stability between the two vertebrae that have been creating painful motion. Spinal fusion can also provide additional support or alignment in the case of a fracture or deformity.
- Metal implants can be used to connect two vertebrae, which will result in additional bone growth between the vertebrae with the same outcome as using a bone graft.
Cervical Spinal Fusion
Cervical spinal fusion is performed to fuse vertebrae in the neck and address neck pain and radiating shoulder or arm pain associated with cervical issues.
Types of cervical spinal fusion include both bone grafting and the use of metal implants as for lumbar spinal fusion.
Additional types of cervical spinal fusion include:
- The use of metal plates to join vertebrae together
- Removal of an entire vertebrae and the fusion of the remaining vertebrae
- Removal of a spinal disc and fusion of the vertebrae
Recovering from Spinal Fusion Surgery
A hospital stay of several days to monitor your progress after surgery will be required. Bed rest is not normally recommended once you are discharged and are recovering at home, but your spine doctor may have you wear a back brace in the case of lumbar spinal fusion or a neck brace in the case of cervical spinal fusion for additional support.
Full recovery is a long-term process. While you may experience relief soon after your surgery, it will take several months before the fusion achieves full strength. During this time, it is important that you maintain correct posture and learn how to move to support and strengthen your back or neck. Recovery may include exercise such as swimming, walking or riding a stationary bicycle.
A younger patient in good health with a sedentary job may be able to return to work in 4 to 6 weeks, whereas an older patient or a patient with a job that demands more active motion or manual labor may take up to 6 months to recover before being able to return back to work.
Do I need back surgery?
At Hunt Spine, we specialize in helping patients find the best treatment option for their specific condition. Learn more about our approach to back surgery.Learn more
How well does spinal fusion surgery work to relieve back pain?
Spinal fusion is not guaranteed to relieve all back pain. If you experienced chronic back pain prior to spinal fusion, it is not uncommon to still experience some back pain. Exercising and losing weight can improve the outcomes of your spinal fusion surgery. Based on your specific diagnosis, Drs. Leonel and Gabriel Hunt can go over expectations for your different treatment options. To get started, please schedule your consultation today.