Common Concerns About Spinal Fusion

Posted on: 23 March 2015

Back surgery is often an intimidating idea. The spine is complicated, and problems there can have effects throughout the entire body. If you are considering spinal fusion, you may have some concerns about this futuristic-sounding procedure. While you should definitely discuss any questions you have with a professional, like Highlands Neurosurgery, P.C.​, knowing more about the procedure can help you formulate the right questions and feel more secure about the procedure.

What exactly is spinal fusion?

Spinal fusion involves joining together multiple vertebrae in the spine, welding them into a single bone. This is not done in response to one particular back problem. Rather, multiple conditions that cause back pain are treated this way.

Fusing together two vertebrae eliminates movement between them, thus reducing strain on the nearby nerves, ligaments, and muscles. If your doctor has determined that motion is what is causing your back pain, spinal fusion is a common surgery to remove that cause.

Won't it affect flexibility?

Your spine has many vertebrae – in fact, if you've never had any fused or removed, you have twenty-four articulated vertebrae and nine which are naturally fused. This means that spinal fusion will have an effect on only a small part of your spine.

So while you may notice a slight loss of flexibility in that one area, it shouldn't have much of an effect on your overall flexibility. And since back pain reduces flexibility, you may even feel more flexible after the surgery than you did before!

Does back surgery involve a long recovery?

There are two main categories of spinal surgery: open surgery and minimally invasive surgery. Open surgery does have a longer recovery time because the incisions are larger and, depending on the approach, more muscle may need to be shifted during the surgery.

Minimally invasive surgery (sometimes called non-invasive surgery) uses very small incisions through which operating microscopes, endoscopes, or even lasers can be used. The smaller cuts mean a shorter recovery time as well. The Society for Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery estimates that spinal fusion patients leave the hospital after two or three days; and, then you could resume all normal activity in about six weeks.

Who is a candidate for minimally invasive spinal fusion?

This is a question that you should discuss with your doctor. Minimally invasive surgery has been around for years, but it's important to have a surgeon and staff who are experienced with it. If your spinal surgery is likely to be very complicated, open surgery may be preferred. But in many cases, minimally invasive spinal fusion should at least be considered.