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FAQ About Spinal Fusion Surgery

Spinal Fusion Surgery FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

Below are some frequently asked questions about spinal fusion surgery and some short answers. For more in depth information, see our link to other articles online, or make an appointment and talk to one of the doctors at Saratoga Spine.
spinal fusion surgery FAQ

What is spinal fusion surgery?

Spinal fusion is an operation in which two or more bones of the spine are fused together to stop the motion in the area(s). In most spinal fusions, bone material is placed around the area and, over time, grows into the adjacent vertebrae, welding them together.

When is spinal fusion recommended?

Spinal fusion can be used to treat several conditions such as spinal fractures, tumors, and instability of the spine (spondylolisthesis). Cervical (neck) fusions is used to treat disc herniations, spurs, or nerve compression.

Is spinal fusion dangerous?

Spinal fusion carries the same inherent risks as with most operations. These include, anesthesia, bleeding, nerve damage, blood clots, bowel and bladder dysfunction, and spinal fluid leak. Risks specific to spinal fusion include the bone not healing or possible loosening of the instrumentation (if any is used during surgery). Either of these may require an additional surgery to correct. Smoking increases the risks of the bone not healing properly, so patients are encouraged to stop smoking before and after the procedure.

What’s the difference between disc replacement and spinal fusion?

Disc replacement and spinal fusion are two different procedures which can be used to treat many of the same conditions (herniated discs, and conditions associated with degenerative disc disease). With spinal fusion the disc between two vertebrae is typically removed and bone graft put in its place. This bone material grows into each adjacent vertebrae, fusing them together. The disc is also removed during disc replacement surgery. However, with disc replacement, an artificial disc is put in its place and the adjacent vertebrae remain separate, allowing for movement of the joint.

How long do you have to stay in the hospital for spinal fusion?

Depending on the type of fusion performed, patients typically are able to be up and walking around the day after surgery. Patients are typically in the hospital for two to five days after surgery.

What is the range of motion after a cervical spine fusion?

Cervical fusion is a spinal fusion in the neck. While the fused vertebrae may reduce your range of motion slightly, many studies have found that patients have an increased range of motion post operatively. This may be, in part, due to a reduction in pain associated with the motion. This result, however, can vary significantly with the extent of the condition and number of vertebrae fused.

Is spinal fusion permanent?

Spinal fusion is permanent.

Can spinal fusion be reversed?

While spinal fusions have been practiced for many decades, their reversal is a relatively new concept. There have been studies and experimental reversal surgeries but the practice of reversing a spinal fusion is extremely new and somewhat controversial.

Where can I get more information on spinal fusion?

There are several resources available right here on the Saratoga Spine website.




*Please Note: Information on this site or any recommended sites should not be used as a diagnosis or a substitute for talking with your doctor. Always talk with your doctor about diagnosis and treatment information.
Blue Distinction Center for Spine Surgery