A spinal fusion is a surgical procedure that joins two or more vertebrae together to stabilize the spine and alleviate pain. When taking a posterior approach, the surgeon accesses the spine through the back. The two most common types of posterior spinal fusions are cervical fusions and lumbar fusions.
Cervical fusions involve the top seven vertebrae of the neck, while lumbar fusions are performed on the five vertebrae of the lower back. A posterior cervical or lumbar spinal fusion can sometimes be used in conjunction with a variety of other procedures, such as a foraminotomy or laminectomy.
Who is a Good Candidate?
For cases where non-surgical intervention has been ineffective at relieving neck or lower back pain, a posterior spinal fusion may be necessary. However, this procedure can only be performed when your surgeons know precisely what the source of your pain is, which can usually be achieved using diagnostic imaging tests. Posterior cervical and lumbar fusions may help relieve symptoms of the following conditions:
- Degenerative disc disease
- Spinal stenosis
- Facet arthropathy
- Cervical spondylotic myelopathy
- Herniated disc
- Tumor in or near the spine
- Fractured vertebrae
Your surgeon at Spine Care Partners will work with you to determine what technique they use and whether they should adopt an anterior, posterior, or lateral approach, depending on the exact nature and location of your back pain.
What to Expect Before Surgery
Prior to surgery, you will decide with your surgeon what technique is best for your post-surgical goals, as well as what type of bone graft material will best help your condition. Once you are designated as a candidate for a posterior cervical or lumbar fusion, you should prepare by following standard surgical protocols:
- Fill out adequate paperwork, including consent forms and medical history
- Complete all pre-surgical tests, such as blood tests, X-rays, electrocardiograms
- Stop taking blood thinners seven days before surgery
What to Expect Following Your Procedure
Following your procedure, it will be crucial to keep your back immobilized to ensure that the fusion is successful. It typically takes about three to six months for your vertebrae to fuse entirely into one solid bone. Sometimes, you may need a brace to keep your back immobilized. After leaving the hospital, our surgeons at Spine Care Partners also recommend to:
- Go to physical therapy regularly
- Avoid twisting, bending, and lifting
- Refrain from sitting for prolonged periods of time
- Keep your incision site clean
- Attend all follow-up appointments
- Take all prescribed medications