Spinal Fusion Surgery

Definition of Spinal Fusion Surgery

Spinal fusion surgery is performed to permanently join two or more bones of the spine. This eliminates movement between them.

Spinal fusion surgery uses techniques that are designed to mimic the same process broken bones go through as they heal. Bone or material like a bone is placed in the space between two vertebrae. Instrumentation, which is metal screws, rods or plates, may also be used to keep the bones together as they heal into one solid piece of bone.

Because spinal fusion surgery makes parts of your spine immobile, it places strain and stress on the bones below and above the site that was fused. This may cause these areas to wear away or degenerate more quickly.

Spinal fusion surgery joins two or more vertebrae into one solid piece of bone. This creates more stability in the spine, it can help reduce pain or help correct a curvature or deformity.

Reason for spinal fusion surgery 

Your physician might recommend spinal fusion surgery as treatment for one of the following problems:

- Broken vertebrae: Many broken vertebrae heal on their own. But if a broken bone creates spinal instability, you may need spinal fusion surgery.
- Deformities of the spine: Spinal curvatures like kyphosis and scoliosis are treated with spinal fusion surgery.
- Spinal weakness or instability: Some cases of severe arthritis can cause too much movement in the spine. Surgery might be needed to add stability to the spine in these cases.
- Spondylolisthesis: In this condition, one backbone slips forward, over the top of the one beneath it.
- Herniated disk: When the damaged disc is removed, spinal fusion surgery may be needed to stabilize the spine.
- Chronic low back pain: Sometimes surgery can help to relieve pain, but this use is not always recommended.

Spinal fusion surgery has been done for many years. Many different techniques and approaches can be used.

- Anterior approach: The spine is accessed from the front of the body
- Posterior approach: The spine is accessed from the back
- Lateral approach: The spine is accessed from the side

Spinal fusion surgery can also be performed using minimally invasive techniques which require smaller incisions. The procedure your surgeon recommends will depend on your condition and where it is located.

Bone Grafting

Spinal fusion surgery uses some kind of bone graft. Typically, small sections of bone are used or bone-like material is placed in the space between the vertebrae that are being fused.

The bone graft promotes healing and helps the backbones grow together into one solid mass of bone following spinal fusion surgery.

It used to be that the only option was to use a bone taken from the patient's own body, creating the need for another incision, more pain, and the risk of additional complications. One alternative that is now available for spinal fusion surgery is the use of an allograft from a bone bank. An allograft is the bone of a cadaver.

There are also several other artificial options available, such as demineralized bone matrices, bone morphogenetic proteins, and ceramics. Your surgeon will talk with you about what type of bone graft material will work best for your spinal fusion surgery.

Immobilization

After your spinal fusion surgery, a brace might be needed to provide stabilization while the fusion heals. In a process known as internal fixation,  instrumentation, such as screws, rods, and plates, are used to help keep the vertebrae and the bone graft in place. This adds stability and many patients are able to be mobile sooner after their operation.

Spinal fusion surgery risks

Spinal fusion surgery is generally thought of as a safe procedure. Like any operation, it does carry the risk of complications. Possible complications include:

- Bleeding,
- Delayed wound healing,
- Infection,
- Blood clots,
- Damage to the nerves or blood vessels around or in the spine,
- Pain at the donor site (where the bone graft was taken from).

Because it changes the mobility of your spine, spinal fusion surgery adds increased stress and strain to the vertebrae around the fusion site. This may cause damage from wear and tear on these vertebrae to happen earlier than it would have, had you not had spinal fusion surgery. This wear and tear damage can lead to chronic pain.

Following spinal fusion surgery, it is critical that you follow all your doctor's instructions. Instructions relating to infection and blood clots are especially important. Blood clots and infection are most likely to happen within the few weeks after your spinal fusion surgery.

Signs and symptoms of a blood clot include:

- Swelling in your foot, ankle or calf,
- Tenderness or redness in your lower leg that extends just below or just above the knee,
- Pain or tenderness in the calf of the leg.

Sometimes, a blood clot can break off and travel through the bloodstream to the lungs. If you develop a sudden cough, trouble breathing or chest pain, call 911 immediately.  Infection following spinal fusion surgery rarely occurs.

Signs and symptoms of infection include:

- A fever above 100 F (taken by mouth),
- Redness increased pain and swelling around your incision,
- Increased drainage from your incision,
- Increased pain,
- Chills or shaking,
- A foul odor from your incision.

If you develop any of these symptoms after spinal fusion surgery, call your doctor or go to the emergency room for medical care right away.

Care after spinal fusion surgery

Complete fusion of the bone may not be complete for several months following spinal fusion surgery. You will probably be feeling much better long before the fusion is complete. Even though you feel better, your spine needs to be treated with care. You will be taught the right ways to move, turn, stand, sit and walk.

Right after spinal fusion surgery, you will probably be restricted to only light exercise like walking. As you get stronger, you will probably be able to slowly increase the amount of activity and exercise you can perform.

Practicing healthy habits and following your doctor's recommendations and instructions will help ensure a successful outcome from your spinal fusion surgery.

Spinal fusion surgery is usually used in cases of spinal instability, curvature deformities, and vertebral fractures. In studies, it has been shown that non-surgical treatment is usually just as effective as surgery for treating neck or back pain when the cause of pain is unclear.

The exact cause of back pain can be difficult to determine, even if bone spurs or a disc herniation is visible on spinal X-rays. This is because people who have these problems are often pain-free. Your pain may be not be caused by something that is visible.

Even when spinal fusion surgery provides relief from symptoms, it may lead to more back pain later due to degenerative changes in other sections of the spine.

- Avoid smoking,
- Avoid use of narcotics,
- A back brace is worn as part of care,
- Appropriate exercise (physiotherapy),
- Get assistance for difficult tasks,
- Don't pick up heavy objects.

Patients have to look out to avoid infection around the wound site which can be noticed by:

- Spike in temperature
- Increased reddening at the incision sight
- Pain in the area
- Oozing pus

The doctor will also prescribe painkillers to help manage the pain during the healing process.

You might also like to read:
- Growth Friendly Scoliosis Surgery,
- Hemi-epiphysiodesis.

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Questions & Answers
Q:
What is the best way to treat permanent back and neck pain and stiffness?
A:

Here are some tips:

Neck Pain Tips: Sleep with a cervical pillow

Orthopedic or cervical pillows are made with special contours to support the space beneath the neck and head. They are also more concave for the head and provide more support to the neck.

Neck Pain Tips: Sleep on your back

The best position to lie to sleep is on your back. If you sleep on your stomach or on your side, make sure your pillow is not too thick. It should raise your head no more than 4 to 6 inches. This will keep your neck and head from turning to either side.

Neck Pain Tips: Position your computer screen at eye level

While you are working at a computer, sit comfortably in your chair with your computer in front of you. Close your eyes and then open them. When you open your eyes, you should see the middle of the computer screen. If your gaze is not in the middle of the screen, adjust the height of the screen using items like books.

To keep your head from gradually drifting forward, take frequent breaks to stretch. Getting up to walk around at least once every half-hour is one of the best neck pain tips.

Neck Pain Tips: Use a telephone headset

Never hold a phone between your shoulder and your ear. Use a headset or other hands-free system to talk on the phone and avoid abusing your neck and spine.

Neck Pain Tips: Exercise your neck muscles

One of the best neck pain tips is using the chin tuck. You can do this often throughout the day. In addition to helping strengthen the muscles that hold the head in alignment over the shoulders, it also helps strengthen the scalene and sub-occipital muscles.

Read more tips here: Neck Pain Tips: Sleeping, Posture, Exercising, Hydration & Prevention

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Temed Holdings
4 answers
Q:
What is the best treatment for neck pain and shoulder Pain?
A:

One of the best treatment for neck pain and shoulder pain is exercises:

Neck Pain Exercises: Neck Extension

  1. To begin this neck pain exercise, sit up straight in a chair with your feet flat on the floor.
  2. Looking straight ahead, tuck your chin slightly (starting position)
  3. Place the palm of your hand on the back of your neck, at the base of your head
  4. Apply slight forward pressure with your hand, while resisting the forward motion of your neck and head
  5. Hold for a count of 5 and return to the starting position and relax
  6. Repeat the neck pain exercises 5-10 times

Neck pain exercises: Side bend

  1. Sit up straight in a chair with your feet flat on the floor.
  2. Looking straight ahead, tuck your chin slightly (starting position)
  3. Place your left hand, palm down, on the left side of your head (around your ear)
  4. Slightly push your head to the right side with your hand, while resisting the sideways motion of your neck and head
  5. Hold for a count of 5 and return to the starting position and relax.
  6. Repeat 5-10 times
  7. Repeat the neck pain exercises with the other side.

Neck pain exercises: Neck flexion

  1. Sit up straight in a chair with your feet flat on the floor.
  2. Looking straight ahead, tuck your chin slightly (starting position)
  3. Place the tips of your fingers on your forehead
  4. Slightly push your head backward with your fingers, while resisting the backward motion of your neck and head
  5. Hold for a count of 5 and return to the starting position and relax.
  6. Repeat the neck pain exercises 5-10 times

More exercises here: Neck Pain Exercises

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Temed Holdings
4 answers
Q:
How do I reduce the shoulder and neck pain?
A:

Here are some tips:

Neck Pain Tips: Sleep with a cervical pillow

Orthopedic or cervical pillows are made with special contours to support the space beneath the neck and head. They are also more concave for the head and provide more support to the neck.

Neck Pain Tips: Sleep on your back

The best position to lie to sleep is on your back. If you sleep on your stomach or on your side, make sure your pillow is not too thick. It should raise your head no more than 4 to 6 inches. This will keep your neck and head from turning to either side.

Neck Pain Tips: Position your computer screen at eye level

While you are working at a computer, sit comfortably in your chair with your computer in front of you. Close your eyes and then open them. When you open your eyes, you should see the middle of the computer screen. If your gaze is not in the middle of the screen, adjust the height of the screen using items like books.

To keep your head from gradually drifting forward, take frequent breaks to stretch. Getting up to walk around at least once every half-hour is one of the best neck pain tips.

Neck Pain Tips: Carry weight evenly

Many people make the mistake of carrying a heavy briefcase or their purse on their shoulder or on one side of their body. Doing this causes strain in the muscles and leads to pain.

Remove non-essentials from your briefcase or purse. Consider using a backpack to evenly distribute the weight across your shoulders. If you choose to carry a purse or backpack, keep your shoulders level while carrying it.

Neck Pain Tips: Maintain a proper posture

The most common posture contributing to neck pain is the “head-and-shoulders-forward” posture. In this position, the neck slopes forward, putting the head in front of the shoulders.

In this position, the head pulls the upper back forward also in a slumped position. This places a strain on the entire spinal column.

More tips here: Neck Pain Tips: Sleeping, Posture, Exercising, Hydration & Prevention

Read more
Temed Holdings
4 answers