Why you may need a lumbar fusion
A lumbar fusion is performed to ensure the greatest function possible for a failed spine. This is done by fusing together vertebrae to prevent overgrowths of bone spurs, and compression of spinal nerves, that typically result in back and leg pain.
What causes a failed spine?
The structural integrity of the spine can be compromised by a number of conditions, including but not limited to: trauma, infection, tumor, disk degeneration, fractures, or scoliosis. When the spine is no longer structurally sound and stable, a lumbar fusion can correct and provide greater mobility and reduce pain experienced from a failed spine.
How should I prepare for surgery?
Maintaining a healthy body weight, being mindful of posture, and avoiding tobacco products that are damaging to healthy tissue, are daily ways to maintain spinal health and ensure you’re in the best surgery shape possible!
What happens during a lumbar fusion?
There are three main stages of a lumbar fusion, all of which can vary in complexity, depending on the patient’s anatomy and the degree of spinal degeneration found in the disks and facet joints. The first stage, tissue removal, begins with a skin incision along the portion of the spine that has failed. Once visible, the surgeon will begin to remove any diseased tissue, damaged facet joints (located beside and between vertebrae), ligaments, and bones that have jeopardize the spine’s stability. The surgery required for each of these materials will depend on the level of degeneration found.
With the spine more exposed, the surgeon will begin to prepare the portion of the spine that will be fused. Depending on the spinal structure, the surgeon will fuse one vertebra with another using spacers to support your spine, or bone grafts taken from either bones removed in the first stage of surgery or donor bone material. Ultimately, by joining one vertebra with another, the motions of those joints that created the back and leg pain will be eliminated.
After the spine is prepared for fusion, the surgeon will determine the best possible posture to allow the greatest possible functionality in the future. Using screws and curved rods, the surgeon will be able to extend and connect vertebrae segments with each other. Occasionally, the screws will be further secured into the back position of the patient’s pelvis.
It is important to remember that with any surgery this extensive, the surgery team will be monitoring your health carefully and will be prepared to provide blood transfusions or other medications to support you during surgery. A drain will be placed at the surgical site to prevent any post-op swelling, and a catheter is placed to ensure proper kidney functioning.
Rehabilitation following any surgery varies from person to person. With a lumbar fusion, you may be asked to use a brace or a walker to prevent any strain or pain on the freshly fused spine. The degree of pain, discomfort, or any difficulties experienced after surgery, will be monitored by the hospital staff to determine the length of stay necessary.