Persistent back pain can affect your ability to move and impact your quality of life overall. There are many causes of chronic pain in the back, but the good news is there are also numerous treatment options for addressing and minimizing the pain, so you can return to activities you once loved. At the Orthopaedic Institute of Ohio, our surgeons perform a wide range of surgical and nonsurgical treatments to help restore our patients’ mobility and posture while reducing nagging discomfort. Spinal fusion is one of the solutions we provide that allows us to tailor treatments to meet the individual needs of our patients.
Spinal fusion is a “welding” process by which two or more of the small bones (vertebrae) that make up the spinal column are fused together with bone grafts and internal devices such as metal rods that help the individual vertebrae heal into a single, solid bone. The surgery eliminates some motion between the vertebrae segments while minimizing the stretching of ligaments, muscles and nerves that may be contributing to discomfort. It also stops the progression of spinal deformities like scoliosis. Most spinal infusion procedures involve relatively small spinal segments, so the limitations on motion are typically minimal.
Benefits and risks accompany all surgery, and they must be carefully weighed before deciding to move forward with a procedure. Some of the benefits of spinal fusion might include:
Like any surgery, there are also some risks associated with spinal fusion. While the risks are relatively low, they should be considered when determining whether this procedure is the right choice:
Complications are rare and can be reduced further by closely following all pre- and post-operative instructions you receive from your surgeon. Most complications can be treated although they may extend the recovery process and possibly your hospital stay after surgery.
Your surgeon might recommend spinal fusion to treat a wide range of issues, including:
While spinal fusion is a practical solution for a variety of spine disorders, it is not the only treatment option available today. Our surgeons will provide a comprehensive assessment of your conditions as well as a detailed description of your symptoms before determining whether spinal fusion is the right method of treatment for you.
Our surgeons perform spinal fusion using general anesthesia, so you are comfortably asleep throughout the procedure. Steps for the operation are as follows:
Incisions for this procedure may be made in one of three locations:
The right incision placement for you will be based on a variety of factors, which will be discussed at your post-op appointments.
Bone pieces may be grafted from your own body – usually your pelvis – to fuse the vertebrae together. In other cases, your surgeon may use synthetic material rather than creating additional incisions to remove the graft from the hipbone. These materials are FDA-approved for use in spinal fusion surgeries and work with the bone to speed up the grafting process.
The final step of the process is to fuse the vertebrae together using the grafting material. Your surgeon may insert metal screws, plates or rods to hold the vertebrae in place while the graft heals.
Recovery from Spinal Fusion
You will spend a few days in the hospital after spinal fusion surgery so that attentive nursing staff can monitor you as you learn to get out of bed safely, get into and out of a chair, and walk. They will also help you to manage the discomfort that is common after spinal fusion, through oral and IV medications. Some patients may go from the hospital to a rehabilitation unit to build strength before going home. You will have follow-up appointments to ensure your recovery process goes smoothly. The entire process will take a few months, as it takes time for the bones to fuse together.
Spinal fusion helps many patients reduce painful symptoms associated with a host of spine disorders and injuries. If you would like to learn more about this surgery, contact the Orthopaedic Institute of Ohio at 419-222-6622 to schedule your initial consultation.