This procedure connects two or more bones in the spine. The bones then can't move, which helps ease neck or back pain.
Spinal fusion is surgery to connect two or more bones in any part of the spine. Connecting them prevents movement between them. Preventing movement helps to prevent pain.
During spinal fusion, a surgeon places bone or a bonelike material in the space between two spinal bones. Metal plates, screws or rods might hold the bones together. They then can fuse and heal as one bone.
Spinal fusion connects two or more bones in the spine to make it more stable, correct a problem or reduce pain. Spinal fusion can be used to:
Spinal fusion is generally safe. But as with any surgery, spinal fusion carries some risks.
Possible complications include:
Getting ready for the surgery might include trimming hair over the surgical site and cleaning the area with a special soap. Tell your health care provider about medicines you take. You may be asked to stop taking some medicines for a time before the surgery.
Surgeons perform spinal fusion while the person having the procedure is unconscious, known as general anesthesia. There are several ways to do spinal fusion surgery. The technique the surgeon uses depends on where the bones to be fused are on the spine, the reason for the spinal fusion, and possibly, general health and body shape.
Generally, the procedure involves the following:
A hospital stay of two to three days is usually required following spinal fusion. Depending on the location and extent of your surgery, you may experience some pain and discomfort but the pain can usually be controlled well with medications.
After you go home, contact your doctor if you exhibit signs of infection, such as:
It may take several months for the affected bones in your spine to heal and fuse together. Your doctor may recommend that you wear a brace for a time to keep your spine aligned correctly. Physical therapy can teach you how to move, sit, stand and walk in a manner that keeps your spine properly aligned.
When spinal fusion is done from the back of the neck, known as posterior cervical fusion, rods and screws are used to hold the bones together.
Spinal fusion typically works for fixing broken bones, reshaping the spine or making the spine more stable. But study results are mixed when the cause of the back or neck pain is unclear. Spinal fusion often works no better than nonsurgical treatments for back pain with a cause that's not clear.
Even when spinal fusion relieves symptoms, it doesn't prevent future back pain. Arthritis causes much of back pain. Surgery doesn't cure arthritis.
Having a spine that doesn't move in places puts more strain on the areas around the fused part. As a result, those areas of the spine might break down faster. Then the spine might need more surgery in the future.