Spinal fusion is a surgical technique that fuses affected vertebrae together in order to stop motion between them. A spinal fusion may be done to relieve symptoms of many back conditions, including:
During the procedure, you’ll be lying down and have a blood pressure cuff on your arm and heart monitor leads on your chest. This allows your surgeon and anesthesia provider to monitor your heartbeat and blood pressure during surgery. The whole procedure may take several hours.
Your surgeon will prepare the bone graft that will be used to fuse the two vertebrae. The bone grafts that actually fuse two vertebrae together may come from a bone bank or from your own body, usually from your pelvis. If your own bone is used, the surgeon makes an incision above your pelvic bone, removes a small portion of it and then closes the incision.
If you’re having a cervical fusion, your surgeon will often make a small incision in the horizontal fold of the front of your neck to expose the cervical spine. The bone graft will be placed between the affected vertebrae to join them. Some techniques place the graft over the back part of the spine.
Once the bone graft is in place, your surgeon may use plates, screws, and rods so that the spine won’t move. This is called internal fixation. The added stability provided by the plates, screws, and rods help the spine to heal faster and with a higher rate of success.
After the surgery you will need to be monitored in the hospital for a few days. Bed rest is usually not necessary after surgery, but you may be required to wear a back brace to immobilize the back and allow for quicker healing. While you may experience some mobility issues, most spinal fusions only involve small parts of the spine, leaving the spine flexible in all areas except the affected area.