When conservative treatments don’t provide the relief you need, spinal fusion surgery can correct spine conditions like scoliosis and other deformities, spinal injury, and associated instability. This procedure reduces pain by stabilizing your spine with rods and screws and permanently fusing together two or more vertebrae. Whenever possible, our expert spine surgeons use the least invasive techniques available so that you can recover faster, experience less pain, and have fewer complications.
About Spinal Fusion Surgery
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.
Duke Health offers locations throughout the Triangle. Find one near you.
Physical Therapy After Spinal Fusion Surgery
After surgery, your care team may also recommend physical therapy to maximize the benefit of your surgery. A physical therapist will help you improve function, strength, and mobility in your spine. In addition, a physical therapist will teach you how to use your spine properly while sitting, standing, and lifting. Physical therapy can also help prevent future episodes of back pain by teaching core strengthening exercises, helping to maintain flexibility, and demonstrating proper body mechanics.
Why Choose Duke
Highly Experienced Spine Center
Research shows that hospitals and surgeons who perform more surgeries tend to have better outcomes. Our surgical team performs more than 3,000 spine surgeries every year and sees over 40,000 patients.
Operating Room Technology
Our ORs are equipped with real-time imaging options that can give surgeons detailed, 3-D images of your spine. These systems help ensure surgical accuracy and minimize the amount of radiation you may be exposed to during surgery. OR staff also use a sophisticated sensor navigation system -- similar to a GPS for your body and spine -- that helps them avoid vital nerves and other structures. This allows for more surgical accuracy than ever before.
Where you receive your care matters. Duke University Hospital’s nationally ranked orthopaedics, neurology, and neurosurgery programs were named best in North Carolina by U.S. News & World Report for 2019–2020.