Spinal Fusion

The spine surgeons at PinnacleHealth Spine Institute use advanced minimally invasive techniques to perform spinal fusion surgery on the cervical, thoracic and lumbar regions of the spine.

Spinal fusion also known as spondylodesis is a surgical procedure used to permanently join together two or more bones in the spine so there is no movement between them. These bones are called vertebrae.
 
Fusing of the spine is used primarily to eliminate the pain caused by abnormal motion of the vertebrae.  This is accomplished by immobilizing the faulty vertebrae themselves, which is usually caused by degenerative conditions. Spinal fusion may also be used to treat most spinal deformities, such as scoliosis.
 
At the PinnacleHealth Spine Institute we use the latest technology to perform minimally invasive spinal fusion surgery.  The result is less pain and scarring and a quicker recovery for our patients. Our surgeons are also skilled at the use of the daVinci Robotic System for spine surgery.

Why would my surgeon recommend spinal fusion?

You may be a candidate for spinal fusion if you have:
  • Injury or fractures to the bones in the spine
  • Degenerative disc disease
  • A weak or unstable spine caused by infections or tumors
  • Spondylolisthesis, a condition in which one vertebrae slips forward on top of another
  • Abnormal curvatures, such as those from scoliosis or kyphosis
  • Arthritis in the spine, such as spinal stenosis.

What part of the spine is spinal fusion used for?

Spinal fusion is done most commonly in the lumbar (lower) region of the spine, but it is also used to treat neck (cervical) and mid spine (thoracic) problems. Spinal fusion in the thoracic region is most often associated with spinal deformities, such as scoliosis and kyphosis.

Learn more about cervical and lumbar spinal fusion>>

What happens during the procedure?

During a spinal fusion the surgeon uses a graft (such as bone) to hold (or fuse) the bones together permanently. There are several ways of fusing vertebrae together:
  • Strips of bone graft material may be placed over the back part of the spine.
  • Bone graft material may be placed between the vertebrae.
  • Special cages may be placed between the vertebrae. These cages are packed with bone graft material.
The surgeon may get the graft from different places:
  • From another part of your body (usually around your pelvic bone). This is called an autograft. Your surgeon will make a small cut over your hip and remove some bone from the back of the rim of the pelvis.
  • From a bone bank. This is called an allograft.
  • A synthetic bone substitute can also be used.
The vertebrae may also fixed together with rods, screws, plates, or cages. They are used to keep the vertebrae from moving until the bone grafts are fully healed.

Before the Procedure

Tell your doctor or nurse what medicines you are taking. These include medicines, herbs, and supplements you bought without a prescription.

During the days before the surgery:

  • If you are a smoker, you need to stop. Patients who have spinal fusion and continue to smoke may not heal as well. Ask your doctor or nurse for help.
  • Two weeks before surgery, your doctor or nurse may ask you to stop taking medicines that make it harder for your blood to clot. These include aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), naproxen (Aleve, Naprosyn), and other drugs like these.
  • If you have diabetes, heart disease, or other medical problems, your surgeon will ask you to see your regular doctor.
  • Talk with your doctor if you have been drinking a lot of alcohol
  • Ask your doctor which medicines you should still take on the day of the surgery
  • Let your surgeon know about any cold, flu, fever, herpes breakout, or other illnesses you may have

On the day of the surgery:

  • You will likely be asked not to drink or eat anything for 6 to 12 hours before the procedure
  • Take the medicines your doctor told you to take with a small sip of water
  • Arrive at the hospital on time

After the Procedure

Surgery usually lasts three to four hours and most patients spend three to four days in the hospital. While spinal fusion often does not relieve 100% of a patient’s back pain, exercise and weight loss will improve the chances of feeling better.