What Is Spinal Fusion Surgery?

This procedure involves placing bone grafts between adjacent spinal vertebrae to join the two structures together. When appropriate, we may use minimally invasive surgical techniques. If the vertebrae are fused together they stop rubbing against each other. By placing bone grafts or bone substitutes between the affected bones, graft material helps maintain normal disc height. During healing, the bone and bone graft can grow together and stabilize your spine.

How do you know you need spinal fusion surgery?

Your surgeon may recommend spinal fusion for several reasons to treat:

If conservative treatments fail, we may recommend spinal fusion. Surgeons consider a number of factors first, including your condition, age, overall health and lifestyle. We also consider your anticipated level of activity after surgery. You should discuss spinal fusion thoroughly with your surgeon.

Are there different types of spinal fusion surgery?

Yes. Surgeons use a variety of surgical approaches and procedures, all involving placing bone grafts between vertebrae. These grafts can come directly from the patient (autograft), a bone bank (allograft) or a synthetic bone substitute.

Your surgeon can approach your spine from the back (PLIF), the front (ALIF) or the side (TLIF). Your surgeon may use more than one approach if necessary. It is best to discuss your options thoroughly with your spine specialist to determine which is best for your condition.

What should you expect during recovery from spinal fusion surgery?

Recovery times vary based on your procedure and the time it takes to firmly fuse vertebrae together. Expect to stay in the hospital for several days or longer. You may spend time in a rehabilitation unit as well. You will receive a prescription for pain medication. Your surgeon may recommend a brace and physical therapy.

How much time you take off work will depend on your procedure, surgical approach, size of incision and whether there was significant tissue damage or complications. Surgeons also consider the type of work you plan to return to. Typically, patients require 3 to 6 weeks of medical leave. Work closely with your spinal surgeon to determine what’s best for you, and follow his or her instructions for the best healing results.

What are the potential risks and complications?

Every patient is different. Complications such as infection, nerve damage, blood clots, blood loss and bowel and bladder problems, along with complications associated with anesthesia, are some of the potential risks of spine surgery. One potential risk is possible failure of the vertebral bone and graft to fuse, which may require additional surgery. Ask your doctor for a complete list of warnings, precautions, possible side effects, previous clinical results and other information about spinal fusion procedures.

Information you read here cannot replace the relationship that you have with your healthcare providers. We do not practice medicine or provide advice on this web site. You should always talk to your health care professional about your diagnosis and treatment.

Patients come to us for spinal fusion surgery from Vernon, South Windsor, Manchester, Hartford, Bloomfield, Ellington and neighboring areas.