Back pain is a common ailment that many of us have experienced at some point in our lives. In most cases, it can be effectively managed using a combination of over-the-counter or prescription medications, physical therapies such as chiropractic treatments, and lifestyle changes such as exercise and proper posture. However, there are instances where back pain is caused by an injury or degeneration of the spine, and in these cases, surgical intervention may be necessary to address the underlying issue and provide relief. One such surgical option is Spinal Fusion.
Spinal Fusion is a surgical procedure that involves the fusion of two or more vertebrae in the spine. This procedure is usually recommended for individuals suffering from chronic back pain caused by conditions such as degenerative disc disease, scoliosis, herniated disc, spondylolisthesis and trauma-related injuries. The objective of the surgery is to provide pain relief and improve the stability of the spine by preventing movement between the fused vertebrae. The decision to proceed with the surgery is made after a thorough evaluation of the patient's condition including physical examination, imaging studies, and a review of the patient's medical history.
People experiencing chronic back pain that last more than a month are normally considered for surgical treatments. However, your doctor will only recommend a Spinal Fusion surgery once he/she has diagnosed the source of pain. Diagnosis is conducted using scans like MRI and CT.
Given below are some of the common medical conditions that are treated with Spinal Fusion surgery;
There are different kinds of Spinal Fusion surgeries that are performed by surgeons. Factors like the severity of the damage, location of damage, patient’s overall health condition, age, etc. are considered when deciding which method to follow. Generally, Spinal Fusion is classified into two types of procedures;
The patient is given anesthesia before the surgery to make the process less painful. The patient is also advised not to drink or eat anything 6-8 hours before the surgery. Given below is a brief procedure on how the surgery is carried out.
The surgeon will start the operation by making an incision to gain access to the damaged part. It can be done with any of the approaches mentioned above. The length of the incision for conventional spinal fusion surgery can vary depending on the number of vertebrae being fused together.
It's important to note that these measurements are approximate and the actual size of the incision can vary depending on the individual case, the surgeon and the type of surgery. Additionally, in some cases, the surgery may involve more than one incision, depending on the extent of the procedure.
All kinds of spinal fusion surgeries require some kind of bone material to make the fusion possible. The bone can be taken from any part of the body or the bone bank. In case it is decided that the bone will be taken from the patient’s body, the surgeon get it from the pelvic bone by making a small incision and then closing it afterward.
The bone is then placed between the vertebrae where fusion is required. Generally, metal plates and rods are used to ensure that vertebrae keep in position while the bone heals. Sometimes, the doctor might also use some substances to expedite the bone growth and healing process.
Just like any other surgical procedure, Spinal Fusion also carries some risks that could lead to complications. Given below are some of the surgery risks that might occur due to a Spinal Fusion surgery.
The success of Spinal Fusion surgery highly depends upon post-operative care. Following are some of the guidelines to be followed to ensure that the healing period goes right;
You can read our in-depth article on recovery after Spinal Fusion surgery here: Road to recovery from spinal fusion
Spinal fusion can also be performed using minimally invasive techniques, which involve making smaller incisions and using specialized instruments to access the spine. In minimally invasive spinal fusion, the surgeon uses a combination of these techniques to access the spine and perform the procedure.
Minimally invasive techniques have many potential benefits compared to traditional open surgery, such as smaller incisions, less blood loss, and a faster recovery time. However, not all surgeries can be carried out using minimally invasive techniques, and the surgeon will carefully evaluate each individual case to determine the best approach.
If you happen to be in Los Angeles and need a second opinion on getting Spinal Fusion surgery, you can see Dr. Ranasinghe at Southern California Brain & Spine Surgery. We have been treating patients with spine disorders for a decade and are recognized as the most reliable spine care facility in Los Angeles. You can schedule an appointment with our spine surgeon by filling out the contact form or giving us a call at (213) 369-4583.
Typically, patients are able to travel again after their second follow-up appointment, which is usually scheduled 6-8 weeks post-surgery. However, individuals who have encountered any complications during this period may be advised to delay travel. Additionally, it's important to note that heavy lifting and carrying heavy bags should be avoided as it may cause discomfort or strain on the affected area.
Recovery time after spinal fusion surgery can vary depending on the individual and the specific type of surgery that was performed. It is important to follow your surgeon's post-operative instructions and any physical therapy or rehabilitation plans. Typically, patients are advised to avoid strenuous activity and heavy lifting for at least six weeks after surgery. It's common to need a few months before resuming normal activities.
Some pain and discomfort is normal after spinal fusion surgery, and your surgeon will advise you how you can manage it. Mostly, it involves taking over-the-counter pain-killers, physical therapies, and light exercises.
To experience some pain in lower limbs is quite normal after spinal fusion surgery. It should not be as severe as it was before the surgery and must go away within 3-4 weeks. If that’s not the case, it is recommended that you see your doctor and get examined.