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Spine Fusion

Spine Fusion

Considering having back surgery is a serious decision that requires much thought and detailed information regarding the procedure and recovery. Your physician has reviewed your history, performed a physical exam and possibly ordered diagnostic tests. All of these will assist you and your physician in making the right decisions regarding your treatment.

One of the main goals of any surgical procedure performed on the skeletal system is to provide pain relief to joints that are considered degenerative, or “worn out.” One of the best ways to provide pain relief to a joint is to immobilize it, or fuse it together. Spine fusion surgery is an operation in which two bones, usually separated by a joint, are surgically joined together or fused into one bone.

Spinal Fusion: What to Expect

Here’s what you need to know should your Norton Spine Care specialist determine that you need spinal fusion surgery:

Before Your Surgery

You will be called and sent a letter when your spine fusion has been scheduled. Included in the letter will be the date and time for pre-admission testing if it is to be performed at the hospital. You also may be requested to visit your family doctor to have lab work or other outpatient testing performed. Please read the letter carefully and attend all scheduled appointments. Failure to attend presurgical appointments may lead to your surgery being canceled. You also will receive a letter regarding blood donation if that step is needed. If you have any questions, please call the Surgery Scheduling Department at the number listed in your letter.

Day of Surgery

You will need to register at Outpatient Registration 1½ hours before your scheduled spine fusion surgery. After completing paperwork, you will be escorted to a special area, where an intravenous (IV) line will be started and you will be asked to change your clothes. Also during this time, you may be visited by your physician and/or an anesthesiologist. One or two guests may wait with you during this period. When you are taken into the operating room, your guests will be asked to wait in the surgery waiting area.

During Surgery

Your spine fusion may last from four to eight hours depending on the type of procedure. Spine instrumentation (medical devices) may be used to ensure the bones fuse together. The purpose of instrumentation is to hold the bones very still while they become solid. Patients who have spinal instrumentation usually return to their daily activities faster and have a shorter hospital stay and more rapid recovery period.

Your surgeon will determine what type of spine fusion surgery is best for you. Posterior spine fusion involves an incision in your back. An anterior spine fusion involves an incision in your side or abdomen, or a combination of both. 

If possible, your surgeon will use a bone graft as the fusion material, in order to:

  1. Stimulate the bone to heal
  2. Provide support to the skeleton by filling in gaps between two bones

The bone graft is usually taken from the back of the pelvic or hip area. The bone is crushed into a powder, releasing chemicals that stimulate the bone to heal. If the bone is taken from your body, called an autograft, it may contain living cells that survive after being transplanted to the spine. This helps create new bone. Bone taken from a donor, called an allograft, will stimulate bone growth but will not have living bone cells. Allograft is usually taken from organ donor bone that has been placed in a bone bank, where it is treated and tested.

See a Spine Care Specialist

For more information about spine fusion surgery, or to make an appointment with a spine specialist, please call (502) 629-1234.

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