Spinal Fusion: A Surgical Solution When Movement is Painful

Written by Jeremy D. Earle, JD

November 1, 2022

What is the definition of spinal fusion?

Spinal fusion is a procedure that permanently joins two or more vertebrae in your spine so that they  do not move. It may also protect nerves and adjacent ligaments and muscles from being stretched. When motion is the cause of the discomfort, this procedure is often used. According to the notion, if  the affected vertebrae do not move, they will stop hurting.

Extra bone is utilized to fill the gap between the two distinct vertebrae in spinal fusion. There is no longer any gap between them after the bone heals.

  • arthrodesis is another name for spinal fusion.
  • fusion of the anterior spinal column
  • fusion of the back of the spine
  • interbody fusion of the vertebrae

Spinal fusion has a variety of applications.

The spinal fusion procedure is used to cure or improve the symptoms of a variety of spinal disorders. The treatment eliminates movement between the two vertebrae that have been treated. Although  this reduces flexibility, it is beneficial in the treatment of spinal diseases that make activity  unpleasant. Tumors are one of these conditions.

  • stenosis of the spine
  • ruptured discs
  • degenerative disc disease
  • broken vertebrae that may make your spine unstable
  • scoliosis (curvature of the spine)
  • kyphosis kyphosis kyphosis kyphosis (abnormal rounding of the upper spine)

Severe arthritis, tumors, or infections may cause spinal weakening or instability.

spondylolisthesis spondylolisthesis spondylolisthesis (a condition in which one vertebra slips onto the vertebra below it, causing severe pain)

A discectomy may be performed as part of a spinal fusion treatment. A discectomy is a procedure  that includes removing a disc owing to injury or illness. After the disc is removed, bone grafts are put  into the empty disc area to preserve the proper height between the bones. To improve long-term  stability, your doctor utilizes the two vertebrae on each side of the removed disc to build a bridge (or  fusion) over the bone grafts.

Cervical fusion occurs when a spinal fusion is combined with a discectomy in the cervical spine. The surgeon removes discs or bone spurs from the cervical spine in the neck instead of removing a vertebra. The cervical spine has seven vertebrae separated by intervertebral discs.

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Getting ready for a spinal fusion

In most cases, spinal fusion preparation is similar to that of other surgical operations. It necessitates laboratory testing before surgery.

If you have any of the following conditions, you should notify your doctor before undergoing spinal fusion:

  • smoking, which may impair your ability to recover from a spinal fusion.
  • whatever ailments you may be suffering from, such as colds, the flu, or herpes
  • any prescription or over-the-counter drugs you’re taking, as well as herbal and nutritional supplements

It would help if you talked to your doctor about how to use your medicines before and after the surgery. If you’re taking drugs that alter blood clotting, your doctor may give you additional advice. Anticoagulants (blood thinners) such as warfarin and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) such as aspirin and ibuprofen are examples of these.

You must fast for at least eight hours before your surgery since you will be given general anesthesia.

Take any drugs prescribed by your doctor with merely a sip of water on the day of operation.  Do you want to be in charge of your health and well-being?

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What is the procedure for spinal fusion?

Spinal fusion is done at a hospital’s surgical department. Because it’s done under general anesthesia, you won’t know what’s going on or experience any discomfort.

You’ll be lying down with a blood pressure cuff on your arm, and a cardiac monitor leads on your chest throughout the treatment. This lets your surgeon and anesthesia provider keep an eye on your heartbeat and blood pressure while you’re under anesthesia. The whole treatment may take several  hours.

Your surgeon will prepare the bone graft that will be utilized to join the two vertebrae. If your bone is being utilized, your surgeon will cut a little part of it above the pelvic bone and remove it. A synthetic bone graft or an allograft, a bone from a bone bank, may also be used as a bone transplant.

Your surgeon will create an incision for the placement of the bone, depending on where it will be  fused.

To expose the cervical spine during a cervical fusion, your surgeon will usually create a tiny incision in the horizontal fold of your front neck. To unite the damaged vertebrae, a bone graft will be put between them. The graft material is sometimes placed in specific cages between the vertebrae. The graft may be placed across the rear section of the spine in certain cases.

Your surgeon may use plates, screws, and rods to restrict the spine from shifting after the bone transplant is in place. Internal fixation is the term for this. Plates, screws, and rods offer additional rigidity to the spine, allowing it to mend more quickly and successfully.

After a spinal fusion, you’ll need to recover.

You’ll need to remain in the hospital for a period of recovery and supervision after your spinal fusion. This lasts three to four days on average. Your doctor will want to monitor your responses to the anesthetic and operation at first. Your general health will determine your recovery time, your  doctor’s procedures, and your response to the treatment.

You’ll be given pain medicine while you’re in the hospital. You’ll also be given guidance on how to move in different ways if your flexibility is restricted. To walk, sit, and stand securely, you may need to learn new methods. You may also be unable to resume a regular solid food diet for a few days.

You may need to wear a brace after leaving the hospital to maintain your spine in good alignment. It’s possible that you won’t be able to resume your typical activities until the bone has bonded into  place. Fusing might take anything from six weeks to a year. Your doctor may recommend physical therapy to help you strengthen your back and learn how to move safely.

It will take three to six months to recover from a spinal fusion fully. Your age, general health, and physical condition influence how soon you recuperate and return to your normal activities.

Spinal fusion complications

Spinal fusion, like any operation, has the potential for consequences, including:

  • infection
  • blood clots
  • bleeding and blood loss
  • breathing issues
  • heart attack or stroke during surgery
  • poor wound healing
  • drug or anesthetic responses
  • infection in the treated vertebrae or wound
  • damage to a spinal nerve, which may cause paralysis, discomfort, and bowel or bladder issues
  • damage to a spinal nerve, which can cause weakness, pain, and bowel or bladder problems
  • chronic discomfort at the bone transplant site
  • blood clots in the legs that may be life-threatening if they spread to the lungs

Blood clots and infection are the most significant problems, and they are more likely to develop in  the first few weeks after surgery.

If the hardware is causing pain or discomfort, it must be removed.

If you encounter any of the following blood clot symptoms, contact your doctor or seek immediate help:

  • rapid swelling of the calf, ankle, or foot
  • redness or soreness above or below the knee
  • calf discomfort
  • groin pain
  • shortness of breath

If you suffer any of the following infection symptoms, contact your doctor or seek immediate help:

  • swelling or redness around the borders of the cut
  • blood, pus, or other liquid draining from the site
  • fever or chills, or a temperature over 100 degrees
  • shaking

The future of spinal fusion is bright.

For some spinal problems, spinal fusion is usually a successful therapy. The healing process may take many months. As you acquire strength and confidence in your movements, your symptoms and level  of comfort will improve. While the operation may not eliminate all of your persistent back pain, it  should help you feel better overall.

However, since the operation alters the spine’s functions by immobilizing one segment, the portions above and below the fusion are more prone to wear and strain. If they degenerate, they may become painful, and you may have further issues.

Being overweight, sedentary, or in poor physical shape may all increase your chances of developing spinal issues. You’ll get the greatest results if you live a healthy lifestyle with a balanced diet and frequent exercise.

What Causes Spinal Fusion?

Bone grafts are used by surgeons to fuse the bones permanently. It’s a “welding” procedure where  the troublesome vertebrae are fused to form a single solid bone. There are many methods for fusing vertebrae.

Bone graft material might be inserted between the vertebrae or in strips across the rear section of the spine. Special cages might also be inserted between the vertebrae and then packed with bone transplant material.

The surgeon may get the transplant from a variety of places. Your transplant might originate from anywhere on your body, but it’s most likely from around your pelvic bone. A transplant from a bone bank may be procured, or a synthetic bone replacement can be employed.

Rods, screws, cages, and plates are often utilized to join the vertebrae. The surgeon will use them to keep the vertebrae from moving until the bone transplant has completely healed.

Spinal fusions may be performed in a less invasive manner. Smaller incisions and less harm to the surrounding tissues are used in minimally invasive lumbar spinal fusion. For example, four tiny 12-  inch incisions are used in minimally invasive lumbar fusion via the belly. Following that, a fiber-optic  viewing camera is used.

Fusion using screws and rods may be done via many 1-2 inch incisions in the back. To widen the muscles apart, a succession of progressively bigger dilators are placed into the incisions. The screws and rods may be put via the dilator tubes once the muscles have been pushed aside.

Spinal fusion may alleviate a variety of symptoms associated with a variety of back disorders, including:

  • Degeneration of the discs
  • Spondylolisthesis
  • Stenosis of the spine
  • Scoliosis
  • Fracture
  • Infection
  • Tumor

Blood clots, respiratory issues, infection, blood loss, heart attack, and stroke are all dangers associated with surgery.

The following are some of the risks associated with spinal surgery:

Infection of the wound or the vertebrae

Damage to a spinal nerve, resulting in weakness, discomfort, loss of feeling, and bowel or bladder difficulties.

The vertebrae above and below the fusion are prone to wear away over time, resulting in problems.

Although the fusion will reduce spinal flexibility, most spinal fusions only impact minor parts of the spine and do not significantly impede mobility.

After a spinal fusion, you’ll need to rehabilitate.

After a spinal fusion, the healing process takes time. The bone may take many months to solidify,   but the patient’s comfort level will normally improve considerably more quickly. The fused spine  must be maintained in perfect alignment throughout this healing period. As a result, one must acquire correct movement, repositioning, sitting, standing, and walking techniques. Doctors may limit mobility after an operation to mild activities such as walking. Activity levels might gradually rise as strength is rebuilt.

Free Consultation with a Car Accident Attorney

Back discomfort caused by car accidents or slips and falls often necessitates the utilization of Spinal Fusion surgery. Contact one of the expert lawyers at Warrior Car Accident Lawyers  now at 719-300- 1100 if you have been advised for Spinal Fusion surgery or believe your pain will   not go away after a motor vehicle crash or slip and fall injury.

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