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In Plain English: What to Expect: Spinal Fusion Surgery

Fusion surgery is often recommended for patients with a variety of conditions such as degenerative disc disease, spondylolisthesis, scoliosis, cervical myelopathy. The goal is to fuse the bones in the spine together in their proper alignment. If you are interested in cervical or lumbar disc (or disk) fusion surgery, contact the spine surgeons at University Spine Associates. Should they determine you are a good candidate for the procedure, read on to learn more about what you can expect before, during, and after back fusion surgery.

Before Back Fusion Surgery
In the days or weeks leading up to your scheduled surgery date, you will be instructed to stop smoking and taking aspirin, anti-inflammatory medications, supplements, or any other blood thinners. The night before your surgery, you will not be permitted to eat or drink anything after midnight. When you arrive at the hospital, an intravenous (IV) line will be started to keep you hydrated during the spinal fusion surgery. Medication will be administered through the IV, orally, or by an injection to help you relax and become sleepy.

During Back Fusion Surgery
An incision will be made close to the affected area of the spine. Soft tissues will be separated and/or moved to the side so that your surgeon has access to your spine. If the spinal cord is compressed, your surgeon may remove a piece or all of a disc and/or enlarge the hole in which the nerves pass. A bone graft will be placed over the back of the spinal column. To support the spine, titanium screws, rods, and sometimes wires may be used. The incision is closed with sutures (stitches) and a bandage is applied.

After Back Fusion Surgery
Immediately after your cervical or lumbar disc fusion surgery, you will need to be watched in the hospital, so that nurses and surgeons can evaluate your recovery process. You may need to wear a back brace during your recovery at home. You will experience low back (for lumbar fusions) or neck (for cervical) pain, which will improve over time. Your spine surgeon will provide you with a prescription for pain medication that you can take at home. Try to limit lifting anything over five pounds as much as possible for the first month after surgery. Minimize bending or twisting at the waist and instead, bend at your knees. Rehabilitation will be important to your recovery and may include walking, riding a stationary bike, swimming, and similar activities.




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