Recovery After Fusion Surgery
- Posted on: Dec 15 2019
At DFW Center for Spinal Disorders we perform fusion surgery all the time, predominantly on the lumbar spine, vertebrae L1-L5. Problems with the lumbar spine are often due to the fact that this section of the spine bears most of the weight of the body. Because of that job, these five vertebrae are much larger than the higher vertebrae. However, the loads they bear and forces they deal with still lead to injury that in some cases demands fusion surgery.
In this last blog of 2019, let’s talk about recovering after fusion surgery.
Why would I need fusion?
There are different reasons a patient could need two of his or her lumbar discs fused, but the most common causes are degenerative disc disease and spondylolisthesis.
- Degenerative disc disease is an ongoing process over time. Everyone has some degree of degeneration, but problems usually begin with an injury. It can be something as simple as lifting a box the wrong way. Because the discs don’t have a blood supply they are incapable of repairing themselves, so a ruptured disc usually gets worse and worse.
- Spondylolisthesis is the name for a condition where a vertebrae slips out of place. The disc usually moves forward and begins to compress the nerve roots exiting the spine in the area.
In fusion, two or more vertebrae are fused using metal rods and screws, along with bone graft that is taken from your hip or from donor material. The goal is to grow new bone between the two vertebrae making them into a single piece. Prior to placing the graft material, we may remove the lamina along with any bone spurs if they are pressing on nerves in the area.
Spinal fusion requires a lengthy healing period for the bone grafts to fully grow and make the two vertebrae into a single piece. Most patients return home after 2-4 days in the hospital. Depending on your need for pain medication, patients may begin to drive after just two to three weeks. If you have an office job, you can return to it in four to six weeks. More physical jobs and activities, however, will need to wait for at least three months. If you have a single fusion of two vertebrae, most people can return to all activities after about six months.
Despite the name, your two vertebrae don’t grow, or fuse, together. Instead it is the bone graft along both sides of the two vertebrae that grow between the vertebrae to form a single bone. This process takes from three to six months, depending on your individual rate of bone growth. We use screws, rods, cages, or plates to stabilize the area, but it is still critical to not place too much stress on the area too soon. Your bone will continue to mature and solidify over 12 to 18 months after your fusion surgery.
Do you have questions about your chronic back pain? Give us a call at DFW Center for Spinal Disorders, (817) 916-4685. There’s no reason to live with the pain.