Patient Education

To help you understand and navigate through your orthopedic health decisions, we have created a patient education section. Please select from one of the categories below to learn more about your condition or procedure.
Spinal Fusion Surgery

Spinal fusion surgery is a procedure that permanently connects two or more vertebrae in the spine, eliminating motion between them. It is used to stabilize the spine and alleviate pain caused by various spinal conditions.

Common Reasons for Spinal Fusion

  • Degenerative Disc Disease: Severe disc degeneration causing chronic pain and instability.
  • Scoliosis: Abnormal curvature of the spine.
  • Spinal Stenosis: Narrowing of the spinal canal causing nerve compression.
  • Spondylolisthesis: A vertebra slips out of place onto the vertebra below it.
  • Herniated Disc: When conservative treatments fail.
  • Fractures: Spinal fractures causing instability.
  • Tumors: Removal of spinal tumors necessitating stabilization.

Types of Spinal Fusion

  • Anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion (ALIF): Incision made in the abdomen to access the spine from the front.
  • Posterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion (PLIF): Incision made in the back to access the spine.
  • Transforaminal Lumbar Interbody Fusion (TLIF): Incision made in the back, accessing the spine from the side.
  • Cervical Spinal Fusion: Fusion in the neck region, often done through an anterior approach.


  • Healthy lifestyle: Maintaining a healthy weight, regular exercise, and avoiding smoking.
  • Proper lifting techniques: To avoid spinal injuries.
  • Ergonomics: Using supportive furniture and practicing good posture.
  • Avoiding repetitive stress: Reducing activities that strain the spine.


Preoperative Preparation

  • Medical evaluation: Comprehensive health assessment to ensure the patient is fit for surgery.
  • Medications: Review of current medications; certain medications may need to be stopped prior to surgery.
  • Lifestyle changes: Patients may be advised to stop smoking and lose weight if necessary.

Surgical Steps

  • Anesthesia: General anesthesia is administered to ensure the patient is asleep and pain-free.
  • Incision: An incision is made over the area of the spine to be fused.
  • Removal of damaged tissue: Damaged discs or bone are removed as needed.
  • Bone grafting: Bone grafts are placed between the vertebrae to promote fusion. The grafts can be autografts (from the patient’s body), allografts (from a donor), or synthetic.
  • Stabilization: Metal plates, screws, or rods are used to hold the vertebrae together while the bone graft heals and fuses the vertebrae.
  • Closure: The incision is closed with sutures or staples, and a bandage is applied.



  • Hospital stay: Usually 2-5 days post-surgery.
  • Initial recovery: Rest and limited activity immediately after surgery.
  • Physical therapy: Begins within a few weeks to restore strength and flexibility.
  • Activity restrictions: Avoiding heavy lifting, bending, and twisting for several months.
  • Full recovery: Typically takes 6-12 months for the bone to fully fuse.


  • Infection: Risk at the surgical site.
  • Bleeding: Excessive bleeding during or after surgery.
  • Nerve damage: Potential injury to nearby nerves.
  • Non-union: Failure of the bone to fuse properly.
  • Adjacent segment disease: Increased stress on adjacent vertebrae leading to degeneration.
  • Chronic pain: Persistent pain despite successful fusion.


  • Success rate: Generally high, with many patients experiencing significant pain relief and improved function.
  • Improved stability: The spine is stabilized, reducing pain and preventing further degeneration.
  • Long-term outcomes: Many patients return to normal activities with reduced pain and better mobility, but some may experience limitations in flexibility.


How long does spinal fusion surgery take?
The duration varies depending on the complexity of the case but generally ranges from 2 to 6 hours.

What is the success rate of spinal fusion surgery?
Success rates vary but are generally high, with many patients experiencing significant pain relief and improved stability.

Will I lose mobility after spinal fusion?
Spinal fusion eliminates motion at the fused segment, which can lead to some loss of flexibility. However, most patients do not notice significant changes in their range of motion.

How soon can I return to work after spinal fusion surgery?
Return to work depends on the type of job and the extent of the surgery. Some patients return to light-duty work within a few weeks, while others may need several months.

Are there alternatives to spinal fusion surgery?
Alternatives include non-surgical treatments such as physical therapy, medications, and injections. In some cases, other surgical options like disc replacement may be considered.

What are the risks of spinal fusion surgery?
Risks include infection, bleeding, nerve damage, non-union, and adjacent segment disease. Discussing these risks with your surgeon can help you make an informed decision.

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