Spinal fusionsurgery

Using this guide What's covered

Here you’ll find answers to many of your questions about spinal fusion surgery. Learn how it’s done, what it may cost, what your recovery may be like, and more.

To see how the surgery’s preformed, view our animation below.

For personal insights, see our patient experience videos in which HCF members talk frankly about their preparation, surgery and recovery.

Before deciding on spinal fusion, be sure to check out other back pain treatments first.

Cost Indicator

Discover the typical out-of-pocket costs HCF members can expect to pay for spinal fusion surgery and learn how your choice of surgeon and hospital affect that cost.

See costs

The basics

What's spinal fusion surgery?

Spinal fusion involves getting two or more of your vertebrae to grow together into one bone. It’s done to prevent movement of the affected bones and reduce pain. It’s used to treat a weak or unstable spine, a degenerated disc or facet joints, a fracture, tumour, scoliosis or a deformity. Spinal fusion is the most common type of surgery for chronic back pain. Your surgery may also include decompressing your nerves or spinal cord and then stabilising the spine.

How's it done?

To perform this procedure, your surgeon makes an incision in your back, side or abdomen (for lumbar spinal fusion) or your neck (for cervical spinal fusion). Your surgeon may remove part of the spinal structures that are compressing nerves. Sometimes devices are placed into the disc space or screwed into your vertebrae to hold them together (known as internal fixation). Your surgeon places a bone graft around the devices to encourage the bones to fuse. The graft may be taken from your hip or harvested from a donor. Alternatively, human bone from a bone bank or synthetic bone may be used.

There are many different fusion techniques and your surgeon can explain the pros and cons as well as the risks and benefits of each option.

Where's it done?

Spinal fusion surgery is done in a hospital. The average length of stay is 2–7 days.

How long does it take?

It normally takes between 3–7 hours depending on the complexity of the surgery.

Who's involved?

In addition to a neurosurgeon or an orthopaedic surgeon, it also involves:

  • an assistant surgeon
  • possibly a vascular surgeon
  • an anaesthetist
  • nurses
  • a pathologist
  • a radiologist (for X-rays)
  • a physiotherapist
  • an occupational therapist.

Learn about lumbar spinal fusion surgery

This short animation shows how your surgeon can perform lumbar spinal fusion surgery.

Learn about anterior cervical discectomy and fusion

This short animation shows how your surgeon can perform an anterior cervical discectomy and fusion.

The details

Considering the procedure

Alternatives to spinal fusion surgery

There may be alternatives to spinal fusion surgery depending on your condition.
Learn more

Types of spinal fusion surgery

There are several different ways to perform spinal fusion surgery.
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Results vs. risks of the procedure

The benefits and risks of spinal fusion surgery.
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Choosing a specialist

How to find a neurosurgeon or orthopaedic spine surgeon who specialises in this procedure.
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Questions for your specialist

What you should ask before going ahead with spinal fusion surgery.
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Preparing for your procedure

Pre-operative tests and preparation prior to spinal fusion surgery.
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Your anaesthetic options

About your anaesthesia options and post-op pain relief.
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Your procedure

Going to hospital

What to expect on the day of your surgery.
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Your procedure

What happens in the operating theatre.
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Recovery and aftercare

After your procedure

Your hospital stay.
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Resuming activities and watching for problems.
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The importance of a personalised rehab program.
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People who’ve had spinal fusion surgery talk about their preparation, hospital stay and recovery.
View videos


Eligible HCF members can get a free, confidential second opinion on their health condition from a certified, practising medical specialist based in Australia. 
Learn more

Give us feedback

Did you find this guide helpful? Let us know what you liked or what we can do to improve it. We'd love to hear from you.

To provide feedback, email us at wellbeing@hcf.com.au.

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Important information

Information is provided by HCF in good faith for the convenience of members. It is not an endorsement or recommendation of any form of treatment nor is it a substitute for medical advice, and you should rely on the advice of your treating doctors in relation to all matters concerning your health. Every effort has been taken to ensure the accuracy of the information, however HCF takes no responsibility for any injury, loss, damage or other consequences of the use of this information.