What is Spinal Fusion Surgery?

Spinal fusion is a major surgery and medical procedure used to treat back injuries. The surgery includes using rods and screws, and bone grafts to stabilize the spine. This surgery is usually a last resort after other treatments have been tried and failed.

Why would someone need Spinal Fusion Surgery?

In general the surgery is performed to help stabilize the spine, so any major back injury that may reduce stabilization may benefit from this procedure. Spinal injuries can be acute like a fractured or broken back from a severe car accident or as a result of degeneration of the disk in the back over time. Common symptoms that may cause a doctor to consider spinal fusion include:

  • Sharp or severe pain in the buttocks, legs, back
  • Weakness in one or both legs
  • Tingling in one or both legs
  • Numbness in one or both legs

What to expect after spinal fusion surgery?

Spinal fusion is performed with a general anesthetic so you will be unconscious during the procedure. After the procedure you will typically stay in the hospital for 2 to 3 days depending on the area and type of spinal surgery performed.

Once released from the hospital you will likely spend the first couple of weeks in bed, resting and recovering. Due to the major surgery you will probably still be on pain medication but expect the pain to reduce as the days and weeks progress.

After a few weeks you will slowly start to increase your activities with restrictions and instruction from your orthopedic surgeon. At about 4 or 6 weeks your physician may recommend physical therapy. Physical therapy will help you increase range of motion and strength in your back and surrounding muscles.

A return to normal day to day activities may be possible between 4 to 6 months. Of course this is dependent on your surgery and personal recovery, but most people may resume activities by this time.

Spinal fusion is a major surgery and decision that you and your orthopedic physician will need to make. Spinal fusion is a last resort but if you have been through a full pain management program and still are in severe pain or recently fractured your back, spinal fusion may be necessary to correct and stabilize your spine. After surgery you can expect to be in the hospital for about two to three days and a full recovery may take up to 6 months.

If you would like to learn more about spinal fusion surgery or other procedures, check out our patient education center.

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