Surgery to fuse two or more vertebrae into a single unit is known as spinal fusion. The purpose is to reduce back pain by preventing mobility between the two bones. They can’t move as they used to once they’ve been fused. This prevents you from stretching surrounding nerves, ligaments, or muscles, which could cause pain.
What could possibly go wrong with your spine, which is a complicated portion of your body with a number of little moving components in close proximity to a hub of nerve roots?
If you suffer from persistent back pain, you already know the solution. Your back is vulnerable to a variety of injuries, syndromes, diseases, and dysfunctions, ranging from degenerative disc disease and spinal stenosis to osteoarthritis and bone spurs.
There is still hope if your back pain hasn’t responded to conservative therapies and has left you unstable and immobile. Dr. Gurneet Sawhney is a spine surgeon who specializes in spinal surgery and is board-certified.
He can accurately evaluate your issue, guide you through the appropriate therapies based on his years of expertise and if necessary, perform a spinal fusion to alleviate discomfort caused by the motion of your spine’s discs and facet joints.
Understanding the process of spinal fusion
While there are many different forms of spinal fusion and many different areas of your spine that may require it for various reasons, the end result is the same: spinal fusion keeps the components from shifting. Stopping movement is often the only way to ease discomfort when two or more vertebrae or discs scrape against each other.
The moving parts of the spine are fused into one solid, immovable component using metal rods, screws, and bone transplants. So, yes, this procedure will have an influence on your mobility, but there’s more to the storey.
Pre-surgery mobility matters
Following spinal fusion surgery, your range of motion is proportional to what it was before the treatment. Doctors use a sophisticated scale to examine the range of motion in each area of your spine — cervical (neck), thoracic (midback), and lumbar (low back), but here’s a simplified version.
If your back was completely healthy and you underwent spinal fusion, you would have limited mobility because your moving components were fused together.
If you’re in a lot of pain and your physical restrictions are limiting your range of motion, spinal fusion surgery can help you feel better and move more freely than before, despite the immobility of the fused joint.
It’s a question of perspective, but mild-to-moderate immobility is preferable to chronic discomfort when it comes to spinal fusion.
Calling all body parts
Your bodily components should, in theory, function in unison to support one another. When you lose the use of one part of your body, such as your arm or your eyesight, the others must adjust. This is also true following spinal fusion surgery.
Now that your discomfort has subsided, your spine’s surrounding joints are free to move more freely. They must, however, compensate for the immobilized joint, which may need moving differently and working more. This might hasten disc degeneration in these nearby joints in some situations. That is why it is critical to have a robust and healthy support structure.
A treatment, not a cure
Spinal fusion is a good option for persistent pain that hasn’t responded to previous treatments, but it’s not a cure. While it can significantly reduce pain and improve quality of life, it will not cure diseases like osteoarthritis.
If you had it before, you’ll still have it after surgery, but it may be possible to gain considerable respite from your symptoms and focus on strengthening your musculoskeletal system and improving your general health.
Temporary Restrictions During the Healing Process
However, there are certain limitations to the healing process. During this time, I recommend bending, lifting, and twisting, which I call the “BLT.” Here’s what you can expect during the next six months:
The first three months after surgery: Your motions should be severely limited as your bones adhere to the hardware and the fusion mass heals. During this time, avoid any bending, lifting, or twisting.
Three to six months after surgery: You can increase your activity level, but avoid lifting, twisting, and bending at the same time. When you combine two or more of these actions, your back is put under a lot of strain.
Six months after surgery: Bending, lifting, and twisting are all permissible as long as common sense is used. For example, even when recovery is complete, I usually advise against excessive lifting. Always think about your emotions in terms of protecting your back going ahead.
What is the procedure for spinal fusion?
Spinal fusion is done in a hospital’s surgical department. Because it’s done under general anaesthesia, you won’t be aware of what’s going on or feel any pain.
You’ll be lying down with a blood pressure cuff on your arm and a cardiac monitor leading on your chest during the treatment. This lets your surgeon and anaesthesia provider keep an eye on your heartbeat and blood pressure while you’re under anaesthesia. It’s possible that the entire treatment will take several hours.
The bone graft that will be utilised to join the two vertebrae will be prepared by your surgeon. If your own bone is being utilised, your surgeon will cut a little part of it above the pelvic bone and remove it. A synthetic bone graft or an allograft, which is a bone from a bone bank, can also be used as a bone graft.
Your surgeon will make an incision for the placement of the bone depending on where it will be fused. In order to expose the cervical spine during a cervical fusion, your surgeon will usually make a small incision in the horizontal fold of your front neck.
To unite the damaged vertebrae, a bone graft will be put between them. The graft material is sometimes placed in specific cages between the vertebrae. The graft may be placed over the back section of the spine in some cases.
Your surgeon may use plates, screws, and rods to restrict the spine from shifting once the bone graft is in place. Internal fixation is the term for this. Plates, screws, and rods provide additional rigidity to the spine, allowing it to mend more quickly and successfully.