Any spine surgery that attempts to unite two or more vertebral bodies is considered a spine fusion. Fusion surgery is performed to help reduce back pain or neck pain resulting from a number of diagnoses. This surgery is considered only after all conservative measures have not provided significant relief.
There are many different ways to fuse a spinal segment. The surgical approach and the exact type of spinal fusion performed depend on the individual’s pain complaints, history of previous surgery, medical health and spinal structure. The number of levels involved in the fusion depends on the disc levels identified as problematic through diagnostic studies prior to surgery. The particular fusion graft or device to use during surgery will be determined by the surgeon. This decision is based upon individual anatomy, levels of involvement, patient’s medical health and overall patient safety.
Because of the duration of some of these surgeries and because of the need to manage the body’s fluids during surgery, a bladder catheter is often placed after beginning anesthesia. This will be removed as soon after surgery as is safe – sometimes in the recovery room.
Your surgeon may choose to place a drain in the surgical site at the conclusion of the procedure. This is used to remove excess fluid from the site. It will be removed when it is no longer needed. Patients are encouraged to quit smoking or using any tobacco products prior to undergoing fusion. Smoking may inhibit the bone from growing together to form a solid spinal fusion. In some patients, the bone fails to grow strongly together. This is called “pseudoarthrosis.”