If you have been told that you need back fusion surgery, you probably have many questions. While we always recommend talking with your doctor about your concerns, we wanted to answer a few of the questions that we most commonly hear.
How serious is back fusion surgery?
When it comes to patient care, there is no such thing as a “minor surgery.” And when it comes to back surgery, fusion surgeries are no exception. That doesn’t mean that your back fusion surgery is anything to fear, necessarily. Advancements in medical technology, like minimally invasive surgical techniques, mean that the risks are lower than they were 20 or 30 years ago for most patients, the recovery times can be much faster, and the ultimate results can be much better.
Why is spinal fusion surgery done?
Your doctor might recommend a back fusion surgery if you have a condition such as:
Dr. Baig, our top spine specialist, won’t normally perform this procedure unless it is the right path for you or if non-surgical treatments are ineffective, as therapeutic treatments can often help you avoid the need for surgery. But if Dr. Baig determines that the potentially long-lasting and life-changing benefits of spinal fusion outweigh the risks, back fusion surgery may be the best solution for you.
H2: What happens during spinal fusion surgery?
The exact procedure will depend on a number of factors, like whether you are having lower back fusion surgery or a procedure on your upper spine. It will also depend on the point of access to your spine that your condition calls for.
In any event, you will be placed under a general anesthetic, and your surgeon will make an incision. The doctor will then perform the procedure of removing the damaged disk and replacing it with an implant and bone graft that fuses the vertebrae above and below where the disk was removed. Depending on your condition, the doctor may need to use screws, rods, or plates to stabilize your spine for recovery.
How long does it take to fully recover from spinal fusion surgery?
Back fusion surgery recovery time depends on a few things, such as the condition you have and the type of fusion surgery performed. However, here are some guidelines.
- Most patients can leave the hospital after a few days.
- It takes just a few weeks to get over the worst of the pain and discomfort.
- Patients can typically return to normal activity, and return to work without restrictions 6 weeks after the procedure.
- Full recovery takes 3-6 months.
Some patients recover more quickly, while others may need a little longer. But your post-operative recovery is considered with your spine surgeon’s recommendation for surgery, so always have that open communication with them.
It is crucial that you follow your doctor’s orders very carefully. Your surgeon and their team should provide you with detailed information about follow-up care, and physical restrictions. The doctor should give you detailed instructions on things like bending and lifting, and about when you can resume specific activities.
Your doctor will help you to understand the best ways to use pain medicines to help your healing process. Some physicians will recommend physical therapy as a part of the recovery process, and others will steer clear of it based on your personal medical needs.
Every patient is unique, and only your doctor can provide medical advice that takes your medical conditions into account.
What do I need at home after spinal fusion surgery?
After your procedure, you will likely need help doing things for a few days (and sometimes longer). Spine Health recommends that you have someone check on you every day and that you have a few people you can call in a pinch.
You may need some medical assistance devices, like a cane or a walker, depending on your condition. Make sure you are stocked up with ice packs, heating pads, and the pain medication that the doctor prescribes.
Remember that the first few weeks of back fusion surgery recovery will call for limited activity, so make sure you have a plan for food and entertainment.
What can I expect long term?
The good news is that most patients who undergo back fusion surgery find that it greatly improves their quality of life.
If you have any further questions, or to schedule a consultation with Dr. Baig and his team, book a consultation – call the experts at Desert Spine and Scoliosis today!