5 Things You Need to Know About Back Fusion Surgery

1. Understanding what it means to have your back fused.

There are many situations and pathologic conditions that would require a segmental fusion in the back, mainly the lumbar spine, and understanding what a fusion procedure entails is crucial to its overall success and for the best recovery possible.
Back fusion surgery requires that a segment of the bony portion of the spinal column be rendered permanently stiff, to where no motion occurs at that segment. This may include the use of special instruments and implants such as plates, rods and screws. Back fusion surgery is rarely a complete cure, rather a compromise of improvement

2. Understand the potential risks of back fusion surgery.

Back fusion, as with any spinal surgical procedure, is a major surgical undertaking, and not without its share of potential risks and hazards. It would be irresponsible to think that any surgical procedure was not risky, and in particular those procedures involving the spinal column, cord and nerves.
While surgery is generally safe, care must be taken to avoid complications from bleeding, nerve and vessel damage, infection and failure of the fusion to occur postoperatively. Proper understanding of what is expected of you, the patient before, during and after surgery can help minimize risks.

3. Know what to expect from your body after surgery.

Chances are that after spinal fusion surgery, activity may be limited to some degree, and certain movements, such as bending and lifting, will be discouraged. It may be necessary to wear protective, supportive bracing for a period of time to restrict motion at the fusion site. If bone graft is taken from the pelvic iliac crest area, there will be a wound, dressing, and soreness over the area.
There will be considerable soreness in the back area, so movement in general will be difficult early in the recovery. In the long term, some loss of overall mobility in the back is to be expected, which is the purpose of the procedure.

4. Rehabilitation is crucial to successful recovery.

Once the spinal segment(s) have been stabilized internally, it is necessary to compliment this with strong supportive peri-spinal muscular integrity. Having proper support and muscle tone, both in the lumbar area as well as the abdominal muscles, aids in reducing excess stress on the spine and operative site.
Walking can be an excellent aspect of overall rehabilitation and can strengthen the body in general as well. Restoring flexibility to the spine, relative to the surgical site, is important to overall back health. Strong legs and arms help to minimize the associated stress that can be placed on the back when sitting, standing and walking.

5. Learn to care for your back for long term success.

After spinal fusion surgery, it is fair to say that the back is no longer “normal”. Conversely, it is because of abnormality that fusion surgery is usually warranted in the first place. Learning to care for your back after surgery can enhance the quality of long term recovery and help to reduce potential necessity for future surgery.
One of the most important things to learn is your limitations. Knowing what activities are potentially harmful to your back can go a long way in helping to avoid future problems. Learn proper ergonomics; the proper way to hold your body during different activities. Organize your physical environment to be more back-friendly.

About this Author

Ken Chisholm’s expertise in nursing, healthcare, surgery and orthopedics spans well over 30 years. As an R.N. and Orthopedic Physician Assistant, he holds multiple board certifications in these areas. Ken has a passion for empowering people through education and information. He also writes for a Texas-based publisher that designs specialty study templates for medical and healthcare certifying examinations.