What is a Spinal Fusion?

Spinal fusion refers to a surgical procedure in which two or more vertebrae are permanently fused in order to eliminate movement between them.

How does Spinal Fusion for Scoliosis differ?

Although the same basic procedure is undertaken, spinal fusions for scoliosis are conducted using different techniques than a traditional spinal fusion procedure.

In a spinal fusion for scoliosis rods, hooks, wires, and screws are used to straighten the curved portion of the spine. Small pieces of bone are then placed over the straightened spine fusing it permanently into the proper alignment.

Surgery may be done from the front (anterior approach) or back (posterior approach) of the body and the techniques are often determined by the age and spinal maturity of the patient.

After Surgery

A short hospital stay is common following any spinal fusion procedure but especially following a spinal fusion for scoliosis. After a hospital stay of several days the patient may be released from the hospital. The patient may also remain on antibiotics in order to reduce the risk of infection.  Physical therapy can then begin shortly after as a large portion of the rehabilitation process but rest is imperative immediately following surgery and activities that could jar the spine are to be avoided for to 6 to 12 months following the procedure.

How Well Will it Work?

The success or failure of a spinal fusion for scoliosis varies from patient to patient as it is highly dependent upon the severity and flexibility of the curve. The objective being not to perfectly straighten the spine but to create balance, most adults see a reduction in back pain following the procedure.

What should I keep in mind?

There are inherent risks, though uncommon, with surgery such as infection, damage to nerves or blood vessels, blood clots, and anesthesia risks.

Further surgeries may also be required if complications occur during recovery. The risks of complications vary with the age and overall health of the patient. However, risks are much higher in adults than children.

Initial complication risks:

-Ileus (lazy bowel) is common but treated by halting all oral consumption of food or liquids for a period of 36 to 72 hours until normal bowel function returns.

-A small portion of the lung may collapse in post surgery but will generally recover with frequent turning of the person allowing for deeper breaths.

-A deep wound infection is also a risk associated with surgery and may require an additional surgical procedure.

Later complication risks:

-The most common late term complication from a spinal fusion is pseudarthrosis or back pain.

-A rod or instrument may break at a later time but may not always require repair.

-Loss of lumbar lordosis (flat back syndrome)

-neurological complications of the spinal cord

Ways to Alleviate Pain From  a Spinal Fusion

Acetaminophen (Tylenol) or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) may be taken to reduce inflammation and pain in the time while still contemplating surgery. Post-surgery a patient should follow their surgeons rehabilitation plan for ways to alleviate pain.

Places to Get Help

Get excellent bone and joint treatment from the top doctors at OrthoArizona – Arizona Orthopaedic Associates.