All You Need to Know About Spinal Fusion

Jun 02, 2022

We all have endured back pain at some point in our lives. Mostly, the back pain can be managed using medications, chiropractic treatments, and other physical therapies. However, sometimes the back pain is due to an injury to your spine that requires surgical treatment. One of such surgical treatments is Spinal Fusion.

Who Qualifies for Spinal Fusion?

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;

  • Degenerative Disc - Our spine has rubbery cushions (known as discs) in between the bones to safeguard us from external jerks and injuries. These discs can degenerate over time, however, an early degeneration can also happen due to an injury.
  • Scoliosis - It refers to a condition in which a person's spine is curved abnormally. It is more common in adolescents and teenagers.
  • Stabilizing Spine - People who have an unstable spine due to any medical reason are recommended Spinal Fusion.

Types of Spinal Fusion

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;

  1. Anterior Fusion - In the Anterior approach, the surgeon reaches the infected area from the font. It means if the surgery is to be performed on the neck, the incision will be made in front of the neck (Cervical Fusion) and if the surgery is to be performed on the lower back, the incision is in the lower abdomen (Lumbar Fusion).
  2. Posterior Fusion - If the doctor decides to approach the infected area directly from the back, it is referred to as posterior fusion.

Minimally Invasive Spinal Fusion - This technique is developed recently and it uses endoscopic instruments to do the spinal fusion. In this technique, the surgery is performed with smaller incisions and hence the recovery rate is faster.

Related article: Getting A Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery In Los Angeles


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.

Getting Bone Graft

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.

Bone Graft Fusion

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.

Risks Involved in Spinal Fusion

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.

  • Excessive Bleeding - Minor bleeding is common in surgical procedures. However, If it is a multilevel fusion surgery, there are chances of occurrence of excessive bleeding. Damage to a major blood vessel can also cause excessive blood loss.
  • Infection - Soon after the surgery is over, the doctor will give you antibiotics to prevent any infection. However, in some cases, an infection might develop near the incision that can go deeper if left untreated
  • Failure to eliminate Pain - It happens when Spinal Fusion surgery does not go right. It fails to eliminate the pain leaving the patient to go through another surgical procedure.
  • Dural Damage - Dura is the outermost layer of the three layers that protect the brain and spine. If damage occurs to Dura during surgery, it can cause spinal fluid to leak. Subsequent surgeries are required to repair it.
  • Bone Grafting going Wrong - There are chances that the bone used for fusion does not heal and thus fails to fuse the vertebrae. Moreover, if the material that is to be used for the bone graft catches bacteria, the graft fails.

Post-operative Care

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;

  • Regular Check-ups - Seeing your doctor regularly is very important to identify any potential complications as early as possible.
  • Exercise - Do the exercises recommended by a physiotherapist for a smooth recovery from surgery.
  • Incision Care - Keep the incision dry for at least two days after the surgery. Do not cover it unless advised by the doctor. Be careful while bathing, sleeping, and moving around to not to put stress on your back.
  • Medication - Only take the prescribed medication by your doctor during the healing process. The doctor will recommend some painkillers to relieve pain and antibiotics to safeguard you from infections.

Consult Dr. Moksha Ranasinghe for Spinal Fusion Surgery

Dr. Moksha Ranasinghe is the primary healthcare provider at Southern California Brain & Spine Surgery for patients suffering from brain and spine conditions. She is qualified to provide complete services from diagnosis to surgery and post-surgical care for Spinal Fusion. She has treated several patients over the years and you can read her patient reviews on Yelp and Healthgrades. To book an appointment fill out the contact form or call (213) 369-4583.