Spinal Fusion

What is a spinal fusion?

Spinal fusion is a surgical procedure designed to enhance support by fusing two or more vertebrae (spinal bones). Its primary goal is to eliminate any movement between the fused vertebrae. Spinal fusion encompasses techniques involving bone grafts, which can be sourced from the patient (autograft), a donor (allograft), or synthetic bone substitutes. To facilitate the fusion of the two vertebrae, additional hardware such as screws, plates, or cages is often employed to stabilise the bones.

A spinal fusion can be executed as a minimally invasive procedure (by making small incisions) or traditional open-back surgery. The incision type depends on the condition, its severity, and your overall health. Other spine surgeries may also be conducted in conjunction with a spinal fusion; these spine surgeries include foraminotomy, laminectomy, and discectomy.

How does a spinal fusion work?

A spinal fusion is executed in several stages. Below is an outline of how a spinal fusion is performed: 

  1. General anaesthesia is administered to the patient to ensure they are pain-free and asleep during the procedure.
  2. An incision is made on the skin over the affected area of the spine.
  3. The bone graft is placed between the targeted vertebrae and secured into place.
  4. Metal rods and screws may also be necessary to strengthen the spinal fusion.
  5. Once everything is in place, the incision is closed with sutures.
spinal fusion
Spinal fusion can occur anywhere on the spine and involves fusing two vertebrae to prevent movement between them.

Benefits of a spinal fusion

  • Reduced or eliminated back or neck pain
  • Stabilised vertebrae which help correct deformities and prevent further instability
  • Reduced spinal curvature 
  • Improved function and mobility, especially if conditions like degenerative disc disease or spondylolisthesis previously compromised the spine
  • Prevention of nerve compression
  • Reduced numbness, tingling, and weakness 
  • Enhanced posture and overall appearance
  • Improved quality of life
A spinal fusion is used to straighten the spine of an individual with scoliosis.

What conditions can a spinal fusion treat?

A spinal fusion can be used to treat the following conditions:

  • Herniated discs: herniated or slipped discs occur when the inner, softer part of a spinal disc pushes through the outer, tougher layer, creating a bulge or break. This can compress nearby nerves and result in pain and other symptoms.
  • Scoliosis: scoliosis is characterised by an abnormal sideways curvature of the spine, typically in an "S" or "C" shape. 
  • Spondylolisthesis: spondylolisthesis, also known as slipped vertebrae, refers to a situation where a vertebra has moved out of its normal position and has slipped over the one beneath it.
  • Spinal fractures: spinal fusion can stabilise and heal the spine after severe spine injuries or fractures.
  • Degenerating disc disease: discs between your vertebrae wear down over time, causing pain. Spinal fusion can provide stability and relief for individuals with degenerative disc disease.
  • Spinal stenosis: spinal stenosis occurs when the spinal canal narrows and puts pressure on the spinal nerve, causing pain in the lower back. A spinal stenosis can also be treated with a spinal laminectomy or nucleoplasty.

Spinal fusion is typically only considered when other treatments have not worked. If you have any of the conditions listed above, make an appointment with Chou Neuroscience Clinic for customised treatment.

What results can I expect from a spinal fusion?

Depending on the type of incision used (minimally invasive or open-back), you may be allowed to return home on the day of surgery or required to stay a few days at the hospital for observation. 

You will be prescribed painkillers to help make your recovery easier. Get plenty of rest and avoid activities that pressure your spine.

You may also be required to undergo physical therapy to aid in your recovery. You will be requested to visit our clinic within a week or two for a follow-up. You will also be asked to visit us for a routine check-up to monitor your general well-being.

Maintain a well-balanced diet leading up to surgery. Proper nutrition can aid in healing. Staying adequately hydrated is also important. Engage in light physical activity to improve your overall fitness, which can help with recovery. 

How many spinal fusion sessions are needed? 

For most individuals, only one spinal fusion procedure is needed. However, a spinal fusion does not prevent future spine problems from occurring. Therefore, if you develop other spine conditions, you may require additional spinal fusion or other spine procedures.

Frequently asked questions  

What are the risks or possible complications of a spinal fusion?

Spinal fusion is a major surgery and hence comes with possible risks or complications; these are:
-- Pain and discomfort: it is common to experience pain and discomfort at the surgical site immediately after surgery. This pain is usually managed with medication and gradually improves during recovery.
-- Infection: there is a risk of infection at the incision site or within the spine. This risk is minimised through strict sterile techniques and antibiotic use.
-- Long recovery: the recovery process after spinal fusion surgery can be lengthy and may require several months of limited activity and physical therapy.
-- Future spine problems: a spinal fusion involves fusing two or more vertebrae. This can result in additional pressure or strain placed on the vertebra directly below or above the fusion, which may cause pain or disc degeneration over time.

Is spinal fusion a major surgery?

Yes, spinal fusion is considered a major surgery and involves months of healing and recovery.

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Copyright © 2023 Chou Neuroscience Clinic. All Rights Reserved
Copyright © 2023 Chou Neuroscience Clinic. All Rights Reserved