Spinal Fusion Surgery
Spinal fusion surgery is a generally effective form of treatment that involves techniques similar to the normal healing process of broken bones. The procedure fuses together the small bones in your back; strengthening and straightening your spine and preventing the motion that has been causing you back pain.
Spinal fusion surgery is also known as:
- Anterior spinal fusion
- Posterior spinal fusion
- Vertebral interbody fusion
Symptoms and Diagnosis
Spinal fusion surgery relieves symptoms of a number of spinal problems. Reducing mobility, this procedure may lessen flexibility but it is useful for treating the movement that causes pain within the spine.
Spinal fusion surgery may be recommended if you suffer from any of the following:
- Degenerative disc disease (age related condition where the discs in your spine cause pain)
- Spinal fractures
- Spinal stenosis (narrowing of space within the spine putting pressure on the nerves)
- Scoliosis (curvature of the spine)
- Infections in the spinal canal
- Spondylolisthesis (where one of the bones in your spine slips out of position)
- Unstable or weak spine (a common side effect of severe arthritis, tumours or infections)
- Herniated disk (following the removal of a damaged disk)
- Kyphosis (abnormal rounding of the upper spine)
The method your doctor uses depends on the location of the vertebrae to be fused, the reason for the surgery and your general health and size. Spinal fusion is typically open surgery performed under general anaesthetic (you will be unconscious and will not feel any pain during the procedure) and generally takes 1-3 hours. The goal of the fusion is to have the two vertebrae grow solidly together so that there is no longer any movement between them, causing you pain.
Once the anaesthetic has taken effect your doctor will need to make an incision into your back and move the muscles aside to reach the affected part of your spine. Your doctor will then insert a small piece of bone between two of your vertebrae to fuse them together, sometimes using plates and screws to help keep your spine in place through the fusing process (internal fixation).
The bone graft is usually made out of synthetic bone, allograft (bone from a bone bank) or your own bone (generally taken from the pelvic bone).
After your spinal fusion surgery, you will be required to stay in hospital for 3-4 days for recovery and observation. Your discharge from hospital will depend on your reaction to the anaesthesia and procedure, along with your overall physical condition. During your stay in hospital following your procedure, you will be given pain medication and instructions on how to move in order to help the recovery since your flexibility is likely to be limited.
Once you have been discharged from hospital, you may need to wear a brace to keep your spine in position; your doctor may also recommend physiotherapy to help you strengthen your back and learn how to move safely. If in the first couple of weeks you still require pain relief; over the counter painkillers are generally safe to use. If you have any questions, ask your doctor for advice.
Full recovery from spinal fusion surgery may take several months, varying from person to person. Your age, health and physical condition are also important factors in the healing and recovery process. You can generally return to work between 6-12 weeks following the operation.
Complications may occur during or in the first weeks following the operation. The most serious complications being blood clots and infection. Possible complications following spinal fusion surgery include:
- Infection (increase in pain, tenderness, swelling and fever)
- Blood clots (throbbing or cramping and inflammation)
- Bleeding during the operation (resulting in a possible transfusion)
- Poor wound healing
- Reactions to medications or anaesthesia
Rare complications following spinal fusion surgery include:
- Infection in the affected vertebrae or wound
- Harm to a spinal nerve (sometimes resulting in weakness, pain, and bowel or bladder problems)
- Added strain on the bones next to the fused vertebrae
- Constant pain in the location of the bone graft
- Blood clots in the legs (this can be life-threatening if they reach the lungs)
If you have concerns about potential complications following your spinal fusion surgery, discuss these with your doctor.
At One Healthcare we can book you in to see a specialist Orthopaedic Spinal surgeon, usually within 48 hours, for an initial consultation. Spinal fusion surgery is available at One Ashford Hospital in Kent and One Hatfield Hospital in Hertfordshire.
You can use your private medical insurance or pay for your Spinal Fusion Surgery treatment. We offer competitive, fixed price packages as well as the ability to spread your cost with the option of 0% finance. If you are using your health insurance, please contact your insurer first for approval and let them know you’d like to be treated at either the One Ashford Hospital or One Hatfield Hospital.
Why One Healthcare
- Modern purpose-built hospital opened in March 2016 (Ashford) December 2017 (Hatfield)
- Fast access to diagnostics including MRI, Xray and Ultrasound
- Private, spacious, en-suite rooms
- Specialist Physiotherapy and nursing teams
- Little or no waiting time
- ‘Ultra clean air’ theatres
- Freshly prepared food
- Calm, dignified experience