Spinal Fusion

During this procedure, the surgeon permanently joins two or more vertebrae in the spine. The vertebrae will grow together to form a single, solid bone. Spinal fusion is commonly performed in the neck and lower back, and may be used to correct a wide range of problems in the spine. This animation shows a fusion in the lumbar spine to correct a condition called spondylolisthesis, in which weakened joints or fractured bones have allowed a vertebra to slip forward and pinch a nerve root. Rural Spine serves the greater Rock Springs area as well as Holdrege and Sidney, NE.

How is the procedure done?

In preparation for the procedure, the patient is positioned and general anesthesia is administered. The surgeon creates an incision to access the lumbar spine. The surgeon removes the lamina, the protrusion at the rear of the vertebra. This is the portion of the vertebra that covers the nerve roots. Removing the lamina creates more space for the nerve roots. Next, the surgeon clears any bone or debris that may be pressing against the nerve roots. This relieves pressure and pain.

The surgeon places bone grafts against the vertebrae. The bone grafts may be harvested from the patient’s own body, typically from the pelvis. They may also be taken from another donor. The surgeon inserts hardware to hold the vertebrae together. The surgeon may utilize screws and rods or plates. When the procedure is complete, the incision is closed and bandaged. The patient may be placed in a back brace to restrict movement of the spine. The patient will be able to leave the hospital after two or three days. As the spine heals, the bone grafts will fuse with the vertebrae to create a solid, stable mass of bone.

How long will it take to recover?

Recovery for a spinal fusion can take some time. Many people will stay in the hospital for at least one night after the surgery. You must wait to return to normal activities until your physician sees the bone beginning to fuse. Usually, evidence is shown about 6 weeks after surgery. The fusion process will vary from patient to patient.

What are the risks?

A spinal fusion in Rock Springs is generally a safe procedure. As with any surgical procedure, there is risk of complications including:

  • Infection
  • Bleeding
  • Nerve damage
  • Pain at the graft site
  • Allergic reactions to anesthesia

When should I call my doctor?

You should call us if you experience:

  • A temperature of 101.1° or above.
  • Increasing redness and swelling at the incision site.
  • Chest pain or shortness of breath.
  • Nausea or vomiting.
  • Changes in the amount, appearance, or odor of drainage from your incision.
  • New or increased changes in sensation/presence of numbness in extremities.
  • Severe pain that is not relieved by medication and rest.
  • Problems with your walking or balance
  • Questions or problems not covered by these instructions