Spinal Fusion Surgery is a surgical intervention which is commonly used to correct problems associated with small bones or discs of spine called vertebrae. This is essentially a biologic ‘welding’ process developed with a basic idea to fuse together painful vertebrae, so that they heal into a single solid bone to avoid movement at this segment. Spinal fusion surgery is only recommended when doctors can pinpoint the exact source of pain. For this purpose doctors often use imaging tests like x-rays, MRI & CT scans.
- Spinal Stenosis
- Degenerative Disc Disease
- Bone Tumors
Firstly, spinal fusion effectively eliminates motion between vertebrae. It also helps in preventing stretching of nerves along with surrounding muscles & ligaments. This procedure is an excellent option where motion is the source of pain, like movement which occurs in a portion of spine which is arthritic. The idea is when the painful vertebrae do not move, they will not hurt anymore. When patients have leg pain in addition to back pain, surgeons would normally perform laminectomy (spine decompression) along with spinal fusion. Laminectomy generally involves removal of bone & diseased tissues which put pressure on spinal nerves. Although spinal fusion will take away some amount of spinal flexibility, it is satisfying that most spinal fusion surgeries involve small segments of spine & will therefore not restrict very much of spinal motion.
Like it is with all types of surgical interventions, there are potential risks which are also associated with spinal fusion surgery. Therefore, it is always important for patients to discuss all of these risks with the operating surgeon before undergoing this surgical intervention.
- Infection – In order to overcome risk of infection, antibiotics are regularly given to spinal fusion patients before, during & after surgery.
- Bleeding – Since certain amount of bleeding is expected during this surgery, it is not typically significant.
- Pain at Graft Site – There is a very small percentage of spinal fusion surgery patients who may experience persistent pain at the site of bone graft.
- Recurrence of Symptoms – Some spinal fusion patients have experienced recurrence of original symptoms after undergoing the procedure.
- Pseudoarthritis – Spinal fusion surgery patients who indulge in smoking are more likely to develop pseudoarthritis. This condition involves deficient bone formation at graft site. In case this occurs, another surgery may be required in order to obtain solid fusion.
- Nerve Damage – This is possible when blood vessels or nerves are injured during the operating procedure. However, these complications are extremely rare.
- Blood Clots – This is also an uncommon complication which involves formation of blood clots in legs. It poses significant danger in case they break away & travel to lungs.
Complete spinal fusion usually requires time. It may therefore be several months before the bone graft at the segment is solid. However, comfort level will most often improve much faster. The fused spine requires to be kept properly aligned during the healing time. Spinal fusion surgery patients will therefore be taught how to stand, walk, sit, reposition & how to move properly. Nevertheless, symptoms will gradually improve & so will the level of activity. Spine doctors usually recommend only light activity immediately after the operation. Along with improvement in strength, patients can slowly increase their level of activity. Following the instructions given by doctors alongside maintaining a healthy lifestyle will greatly increase chances of a successful outcome.
Recent research is focused on developing newer graft materials which can act as safe & effective substitute for the patient’s own tissue. Additionally, total disc replacement & various other motion-sparing techniques have also been recently introduced. Spine surgeons in India are abreast of the emerging trends & latest technologies. They also quickly implement fresh ideas that can benefit patients. Orthopaedic Surgery India is closely associated with the best doctors & surgeons & accredited multispecialty spine hospitals in the country so as to provide a range of orthopedic procedures including spinal fusion surgery to international patients. Offering seamless & hassle-free services, they are well aware of every detailed requirement of foreign patients coming to India for treatment.