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A Closer Look at Spinal Fusion Surgery

If you have debilitating back pain that lasts months on end, see your doctor as soon as you can. Chronic back pain is not normal and there are treatments, depending on your condition, that can help alleviate or eliminate back pain.

Spinal fusion surgery is a procedure that many patients have undergone with tremendous success. Ask your doctor if it’s right for you. In the meantime, here are some things you should know while you consider the proper treatment.

Back pain recovery

But, what exactly is spinal fusion surgery? Let’s take a closer look at this surgical procedure and what you can expect from it.

What Is Spinal Fusion Surgery?

The spinal cord comprises several nerves and is protected by the vertebrae or the backbone. However, the spinal cord or the vertebrae can become unstable as you age or if you sustain a severe injury. To re-stabilize them, they need to be “welded” together so that they may continue working the way they did before.

Spinal fusion surgery permanently connects the vertebrae in the spine and mimics the bones’ natural healing process. In this procedure, a bonelike material is placed in the space between two vertebrae to join them together as one solid unit.

When Is Spinal Fusion Surgery Needed?

This form of spinal surgery may be recommended to treat three main things:

  • Spinal instability: Excessive movement between your spinal vertebrae can weaken the bones and cause them to become unstable. This is especially common among people who have severe arthritis. Spinal fusion can help restore spinal stability and strength.
  • Spinal deformities: Spinal fusion is also used to correct any spinal deformities, e.g., scoliosis.
  • Post-herniated disk removal: The spine tends to become unstable after a herniated disk is removed. Fusion surgery can be used to strengthen the spine and stabilize it in this case.

A patient getting a spine examination


What the Procedure Looks Like

Spinal fusion surgery consists of three main elements:

  • Creating an incision: An incision is made in the patient’s back, neck, or abdomen to access the spine easily.
  • Preparing a bone graft: Bone grafts are required for the actual fusion process. These may be extracted from the patient’s own body (usually from the pelvis) or obtained from an external source.
  • The spinal fusion process: This is when the bone graft is finally inserted between the spinal vertebrae.

Recovery Period Post-Surgery

While spinal fusion surgery itself isn’t a lengthy procedure, you’ll most likely be required to stay in the hospital for a few days after the surgery.

Since spinal fusion is a process, it’s important to remember that it can take up to a few months for the spinal vertebrae to heal fully. Depending on the severity of your case, you may be required to wear a brace for a specified period. Some patients are also recommended physical therapy to accelerate the recovery process.

Our team of neurosurgeons will guide you through the spinal fusion surgery process and ensure you get the best spine solutions for your specific condition. We also provide treatments for back and neck pain, knee replacement, and general surgery.

Visit the Find A Doctor Page at Houston Physicians’ Hospital to find a neurosurgeon that’s right for you.