Although there are variations in spinal fusion surgery, it generally involves three phases.
- First, your surgeon will make an incision -- in your back, neck, abdomen, or throat -- to access your spine.
- Next, if needed, a portion of one or more vertebrae or discs may be removed and replaced. This replacement may be made of bone from another part of your spine or bone from a donor, or it could be an artificial implant. Sometimes, small cages are placed into the disc space to promote stability and fusion.
- Finally, your surgeon will bind the vertebrae together with metal plates, screws, or rods and close the incision. After about three to twelve months, the graft should grow to fuse the vertebrae together permanently.
People often ask, “Is spine fusion major surgery?" and "How dangerous is it?” Answers to these questions vary from person to person. In general, spinal fusion risk can range from moderate to major.
After surgery, you’ll need to remain in the hospital until it is safe for you to go home. This amount of time varies based on the complexity of your surgery. It could range from going home the same day as surgery to staying several days in the hospital. Your doctor may suggest that you wear a back brace to support your spine while you heal. You’ll also need to limit bending, lifting, and twisting for three to six months. Spinal fusion surgery requires a total of three to twelve months for full healing. You may have a slightly limited range of motion, depending on how many vertebrae were fused together.