Spinal Fusion Surgery: Everything you need to know

Spinal fusion surgery is a procedure designed to bring two or more damaged vertebrae together. The latter can occur in a variety of diseases, both local and systemic.

From an anatomical point of view, the vertebral column is made up of a set of bones called vertebraeincluding the spinal cord, an important part of the nervous system.

This surgery uses different materials to achieve greater stability in one part of the spine with the aim of reducing pain caused by many diseases. If you are interested in learning more about the procedure, please read the following article.

When is spinal fusion surgery performed?

Many spinal conditions may require spinal fusion surgery; especially those that cause pain. In theory, this sensation is generated by the movement of the deteriorated vertebrae, so their fusion would avoid discomfort.

Some of the ailments in which this procedure is usually used as a definitive treatment are as follows:

  • Slipped disc.
  • Scoliosis.
  • Degenerative diseases of the vertebrae or intervertebral discs.
  • Spinal stenosis.
  • severe arthritis.

Many of these conditions are prevalent in the general population.. The faster you go to a doctor’s office for evaluation and follow-up, the better.

Preparation before surgery

Your doctor will tell you what steps to take before the procedure. Generally, hospitalization is usually indicated a few hours before surgeryduring which the consumption of food and drink can be limited.

They will give you special clothing before entering the operating room and once there, the anesthesiologist will administer the corresponding medications so that you do not feel pain. The type of drug, route of use, and degree of sedation can vary from case to case.

Lower back pain that will be relieved with spinal fusion surgery.
Lower back pain caused by crowded or deteriorated vertebrae may be resolved with this surgery.

How is the procedure?

The surgeon has several approaches to accessing the vertebrae of interest: anterior, lateral, or posterior. The term approach It refers to the site through which the initial incision will be made in order to later complete the entire procedure.

Everyone has their own risks and techniques of choice. The option depends on the medical criteria and what is observed with the imaging studies.

To favor the fusion between the vertebrae, it is necessary to interpose a material between each of them.. This is called bone injection, as a small amount of bone is usually removed from the patient’s pelvis or from a hospital bone bank. Sometimes synthetic materials are used.

Various tools, such as metal rods and screws, may be needed to promote stability and fusion of the graft, which will occur later. Once everything is in the right position, the surgeon will proceed to close all planes using sutures (surgical stitches or knots).

Recovery and prognosis from spinal fusion surgery

Some degree of pain is common in the first few hours after spinal fusion surgery, although it usually improves with the use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen and opioids. The latter are used sparingly.

The bone fusion will take several months to occur; a time in which various rehabilitation exercises will be necessary to facilitate the process.

Although it is a long process, the vast majority of patients experience an improvement in pain. The success of surgery may decrease in patients with comorbidities, e.g Diabetes mellitus and tobacco addiction.

Possible risks of spinal fusion surgery

Spinal fusion surgery is not usually associated with major complications, but they still exist as with any surgical procedure. Some of the ones that sometimes occur are:

  • infections Local.
  • bleeding rare.
  • Appearance of different blood clots in the body.

The latter usually settle in the lower limbs, causing deep vein thrombosis, for which they exist alarm signals that you can learn to detect. If any of the clots travel to the lungs, it causes a pulmonary thromboembolism (a medical emergency).

Recommendations for after surgery

Spinal fusion surgery requires a subsequent rehabilitation process that will last for months.

The recovery process is long and requires a compromise between the patient and the treating surgeon to achieve the best possible results.

Some basic recommendations (which you should consult with your professional first) are as follows:

  • Limit Tobacco Use: this habit is associated with conditions such as nonunion, which can cause the initial procedure to fail and require a second surgery.
  • Have a healthy diet: bone tissue requires nutrients to grow properly. Many modern diets have some specific deficiencies that could affect the process.
  • Train consistently: some aerobic exercises aimed at strengthening the muscles that support the spine can aid recovery. Some of them swim and cycle.
  • Follow the instructions to the letter: which includes basic aspects such as pain therapy and the corresponding rehabilitation.
  • Consult your doctor about the use of special belts: There is some equipment designed to promote spinal stability, but its use remains highly controversial.

As you can see, these are easy measurements that can be done without much effort. One of the main factors influencing compliance is lack of patience during the recovery months, so psychological and family support is sometimes vital.

Consult your doctor about spinal fusion surgery

If you have any of the issues we’ve mentioned throughout this article, chances are you’ll require surgical resolution.

Even if it’s something that tends to be put off, over time, the chances of complications and failure increase. In case you haven’t gone to your first consultation yet, the neurosurgeon is the specialist in this area.

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