Spinal fusion surgery and recovery:
This type of procedure is done when there is a need to correct problems with spinal vertebrae. You will find that there are several different approaches or techniques that surgeons use when performing this type of surgery. In fact, the particular technique or method used will depend on your specific case, as well as the training the surgeon has received, and the spinal fusion implant that is needed.
Your vertebrae or spine is made up of a row of bones that are held together by muscles and ligaments. There are disks made of a soft material which help keep the contents of the spine protected in between each of these bones. If the disks or bones are damaged, worn, or lose space, then the nerves that go out of the spine throughout the body will be compressed. It is this nerve compression that causes pain in the area covered by the particular nerve.
The surgeon will use special tools and implants during a spinal fusion procedure, and this helps relieve the compressed space. Implants merge two segments thereby eliminating nerve compression and providing greater spinal stability.
Length of the procedure: Surgery for spinal fusion generally takes four hours.
Length of Hospital Stay: You can expect to remain in the hospital approximately 4 nights.
Recovery time before You can travel home: You should expect to remain in the country approximately two weeks. When you fly home, Business or First Class seating is highly recommended.
How do I know whether I need a spinal fusion procedure?
Have you had fractures of spinal bones or vertebrae?
Do you have abnormal curvature of the spine?
Do you Spinal Stenosis
Some cases of spinal disk disease
Spinal instability due to tumors or some infectious diseases.
Spinal Fusion Surgery – Procedure Details:
It will be up to your surgeon to speak to you in detail about the procedure and technique that will used during your surgery. Access to your spine will depend on the type of injury, location, and specifics of your case. Your surgeon might access spine via posterior or anterior approaches, or there may be a need to use a combination of both.
If you have compression in the lumbar section of the spine, then the anterior approach might be done through a minimally invasive technique. The surgeon will proceed to locate the damaged space or bone, and screws or a special fusion cage will be set in place to act as anchors for the damaged section of your spine.
An adjustable bar will then be used to join the anchors and help correct the problem. Other materials, including a pelvic bone graft or special material, might be used to stimulate bone growth and fusion between the two segments when the fusion cage is applied. There may be other specialized surgeons who will take part in the surgery, depending on the location of your injury.
When surgery is complete and if the surgeon feels satisfied with the results, then the incision will be closed.
What can I expect after the Operation?
Upon awakening from surgery:
When you wake up from surgery, you will notice a that a rigid body brace might have been used to decrease complication possibilities. You will be guided through the fitting and removal process by your after care team.
You may also notice that a Foley catheter was used during the surgery to drain your urine into a bag. It is very to drain your urine through a catheter because this is also a way to avoid unnecessary complications.
You could have problems with your intestines functioning correctly after surgery. Therefore a nasogastic tube is placed into the nose until it reaches the lower portion of your stomach, and this tube helps relieve pressure and buildup from gas in your digestive system. As your intestines recover and regain normal functions, the tube will be removed.
After your surgery, it is going to be extremely important for you to exercise your lungs to avoid major complications. You will be told to take 10 very deep breaths every hour in order to give your lungs the exercise they need, and you might even be prescribed a spirometer by your physician to help in this task.
Once your surgery is done, you are going to be lying down for lengthy time periods, so the blood in your legs could become static and form clots. As a way to prevent Deep Venous Thrombosis or DVT, a very serious complication, compression stockings, pneumatic boots, and medications could be used.
Once you are home, you will have to perform special exercises in order to recover successfully from your surgery.
Each person is different, and each case and injury presents different issues. Therefore, your surgeon or physician could prescribe medications during your hospital stay. It is up to the nursing staff to explain the risks, alternatives, and/or benefits to the medications described below:
Antibiotics will help reduce the risk of infection, but you need to carefully follow instructions and finish the cycle as prescribed.
Anti-clotting medicines could be prescribed as a way to diminish the risk of Deep Venous Thrombosis.
Anti-nausea medication could be prescribed if anesthesia causes you to feel nauseous. Anti-nausea medication could also help you feel better when you are recovering from surgery.
As part of your pain management plan, pain medication will be prescribed. There could also be a catheter placed on your spine or you could be given a self controlled pump. You will have had major surgery, but the level of discomfort should be manageable or perhaps even minimal. Stool softeners: Will make bowel movements easier.
In order to allow you to sleep comfortable for the first few nights after surgery, sleep inducers could be prescribed. A good night’s sleep is often the best way to start the recovery process.
Physical therapy is an important part of your recovery process, and you should start physical therapy as quickly as your body will allow. You will be encouraged by your physical therapist to go from passive to weight bearing exercises in an incremental manner. You need to avoid muscle atrophy and waste as much as possible following surgery.
What are the Results of Spinal Fusion Procedures?
This type of surgery has shown mixed results, and these depend on your specific set of circumstances. While most patients who have undergone this procedure return to normal activities without any futher issues, there are cases where the pain has returned, or where the patient has developed sciatica. However, spinal fusion does relieve spine stiffness and pain, and most patients are able to live a high quality of life.
What are the Risks and Alternatives to Treatment?
As you probably know, all surgical procedures carry inherent risks. Spinal fusion surgery risks are often minimal, but you need to be aware that they do exist.
Moreover, every case presents different sets of risks, and your surgeon and physician should discuss these with you in a very thorough manner before surgery is performed.
Some of the risks involve anesthesia, and these are generally allergic reactions to the medication that is used. Some patients have been known to experience breathing difficulties, so this is a potential risk.
Risks related to the procedure are generally blood loss, and bone, blood vessel, nerve and/or ligament damage. You could have very successful surgery, and you can still develop complications such as new pain, infection, or blood clots.
On the other hand, you are going to be under the care of a highly specialized surgical team that is trained in how to deal with and lessen the chance of any and all complications which might take place during or right after spinal fusion surgery
. There may be cases where some complications could require a second surgery to correct the problem, and you surgeon will go over all available options with you if this should occur.
You must contact your surgeon if you see signs of:
A bad smelling, hot, oozing wound.
The problem for which you had surgery getting worse.
Having a lot more pain, numbness, or a tingling sensation in your legs
A painful or burning sensation during urination.