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Undergoing a spine fusion surgery – Recovery & Risks

Spine fusion is often considered ‘the last resort to save a spine’. After confirming that no other conventional treatments could benefit your spine, your spine surgeon will recommend a fusion procedure to relieve your excruciating back pain and reinstall your mobility. Other primary reasons for which a spine surgeon would recommend a fusion surgery may include:

  • Fractures due to traumatic accidents or age-related degeneration
  • limited range of back movements which cause pain upon extension
  • Vertebral disc degeneration caused by degenerative disc diseases
  • For treating conditions like Spinal stenosis and Spondylolisthesis
  • Distorted back posture and muscle spasms 
  • Weakness or imbalance in legs and tightened hamstrings
  • Sudden loss of balance while walking

Spine Fusion Procedure:

During a spine fusion surgery, your orthopaedic surgeon will try to release the compressive force exerted on the spinal nerves and reform the spinal shape. And this can now be achieved in the two distinct ways:

Open Spinal Fusion:

Like any traditional open surgery, open spine fusion is performed through a single long incision. It is typically performed under general anaesthesia.

After making the incision, the surgeon will carefully move the muscles and nerves trying to cause minimal damage, and remove the damaged disc between two vertebrae, either partially or entirely.

Now, the two adjacent vertebrae at the top and bottom will be fused or connected using bone grafts or prosthetic support implants such as screws, rods and plates. A substance called bone morphogenetic protein may also be used to catalyse the bone growth.

The incision is closed with surgical sutures, staples and bandages.

MIS Lumbar Fusion:

Unlike the open surgery, a minimally invasive surgery (MIS) of Lumbar fusion is performed through tiny incisions. 

The patient is positioned facing down, and two retractors are inserted from opposite sides of the spine, which is why it is also known as transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion (TLIF).

Here, the surgeon approaches the damaged vertebrae from the sides of the spine through small incisions without causing any damage to the central nerves and muscles.

The MIS instruments and an endoscope are inserted through the retractors and the damaged vertebra is removed either partially or completely. The bone grafts and prosthetic fixations are carefully inserted through the same retractors and fixed around the two adjacent vertebrae.

As the incisions are much smaller, they are easily closed with even one or two sutures and heal faster than the open surgical incision.

Recovering From Spinal Fusion:

depending on the type of surgery you have, you’ll be kept in the hospital for a few more days under supervision. The period of your stay will majorly depend on your healing capabilities and your overall health.

The key is to keep your back immobile while the wounds are fresh, which is why you’ll be given your pain medications through an IV line called the epidural catheter. Your urine will also be collected through a catheter tube so you won’t move for a bathroom break.

A physical therapist will teach you how you must move out of your bed after some time. But your activities will be very limited without exerting any pressure on your back.

After the stitches are removed and a few months pass, you’ll be prescribed a physical therapy program to improve your back movements without hurting it.

Attending your follow-up appointments is equally crucial to ensure that the spine is healing progressively and to decide when you can return to your routine job.

However, for the first six months,  twisting, bending, or heavy lifting is completely prohibited.

Healing from spine surgery is a long process. your back will take anywhere between six months to a year for regaining its original strength and mobility.

Risks & Complications Involved In Spine Fusion:

This surgery is well evolved to be safe with only the general minimal surgical complications which are easily treatable, such as:

  • Bleeding
  • Formation of blood clots
  • External infection
  • Moderate back pain
  • Anaesthesia related reactions and risks

If your doctor has suggested a spine surgery for your back problems and you wish to know which procedure would best improve your condition, you can visit our orthopaedic doctor in Wakad at the Alpha Hospital and have a thorough consultation. You can easily book your appointment for consulting our spine surgeon in Wakad by visiting the Alpha Hospital website.

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