Spinal fusion is a surgical procedure to connect two or more vertebrae in the spine. Vertebrae are small bones in the spine that are interconnected but are separated by the discs. Due to certain ailments and conditions, there might arise a need to join them into one.
In this procedure, a bone graft is used in the midst of the two vertebrae. As the bones heal, they fuse into one and there are no longer any spaces in between them.
Reasons for getting spinal fusion
People need spinal fusion to remove movement between the adjacent vertebrae. It also helps in reducing pain in the back, and also remedies deformities. People with weak or unstable spine often need spinal fusion. Similarly, it is performed for herniated discs and scoliosis.
Disorders that are also addressed via this surgery by the Spinal Surgeon in Lahore include spinal tumors, spinal stenosis, degenerative disc disease, spondylolisthesis, kyphosis.
Preparing for the surgery
The pre-operation protocols for spinal fusion are much like any other surgery. These involve conducting lab tests to ensure that there are no complications otherwise. Moreover, detailed patient history is taken, which includes any medications, illnesses, drug use and history of smoking.
Patients who take mediation like NSAIDs and blood thinners also need to consult their physician for pre and post operation medication dosage, as these affect blood clotting and can cause surgical complications.
How is it performed?
Spinal fusion surgery is conducted under general anesthesia. Your surgeon may make procedural changes as they deem fit, but often, there are three steps to a procedure.
Surgeon will make an incision to get access to the vertebra to be fused. Major locations for incision include near the neck or over the spine, at either side of the spine or in the abdomen.
Then, the surgeon also has to prepare the bone graft as well. Generally, a portion of bone from the pelvis is taken, but a synthetic bone or an allograft can also be used. This bone is what allows for the fusion to take place.
Finally, the graft is placed in the due place, between the vertebrae. Surgeon will also have to use screws, plates, or rods to hold the bones in place, during the process of fusion.
The surgery lasts for a few hours since numerous facets must be catered to by the doctor. Patients, after their operation, might need to stay in the hospital for 2-3 days. Medication is prescribed for pain management.
After the surgery
Patients have to take care of their back for at least a few months, as the fusion takes its due time. During this period, patients need to wear a brace to keep their spine aligned. They also will be requiring physiotherapy to help with healing and mobility.
Spinal fusion carries general risks associated with surgeries. These include infection, blood clot formation, excessive bleeding and the subsequent blood loss, impaired wound healing and allergic reaction to anesthesia.
Some people also might get stroke or heart attack during the surgery, whereas others can be haunted by breathing problems. Blood clot may also travel to lungs, causing pulmonary embolism, which can be lethal as well.
Risk factors specific to spinal fusion surgery include damage to the spinal nerve. Consequences of this include pain, weakness, and bladder problems. Moreover, those getting graft from their own body, might suffer at the site of the bone graft.
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Similarly, spinal fusion also changes your spine’s behavior, as certain portion is immobilized after the surgery. It may also cause stress on the areas above and below the site of fusion, causing more pain, requiring yet another visit to the Spinal Surgeon in Islamabad.
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