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.
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.
In addition to a neurosurgeon or an orthopaedic surgeon, it also involves:
- an assistant surgeon
- possibly a vascular surgeon
- an anaesthetist
- a pathologist
- a radiologist (for X-rays)
- a physiotherapist
- an occupational therapist.
Considering the procedure
Alternatives to spinal fusion surgery
There may be alternatives to spinal fusion surgery depending on your condition.
Types of spinal fusion surgery
There are several different ways to perform spinal fusion surgery.
Results vs. risks of the procedure
The benefits and risks of spinal fusion surgery.
Choosing a specialist
How to find a neurosurgeon or orthopaedic spine surgeon who specialises in this procedure.
Questions for your specialist
What you should ask before going ahead with spinal fusion surgery.
Preparing for your procedure
Pre-operative tests and preparation prior to spinal fusion surgery.
Your anaesthetic options
About your anaesthesia options and post-op pain relief.
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