Monitor the health of your community here

What Are the Long-Term Effects of a Spinal Fusion?

Experiencing back pain? You're not alone. The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke indicate 80 percent of adults have experienced low back pain 5. A spinal fusion is a common surgical procedure to fuse two or more bones of the vertebrae to form a single bone 13. According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS), the surgery is most often done to decrease pain or increase mobility caused by a number of back problems 13.

Is This an Emergency?

If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.

Degenerative disc disease, herniated disc, infection, scoliosis, tumors, fractured vertebrae, spinal stenosis, and spondylolithesis are the most common cited back problems that could warrant a spinal fusion 13. These issues can arise from arthritis, injury, aging, or disease.

Dangers of a Spinal Fusion

Every surgery comes with a risk of complications 2. Following a doctors orders and adhering to post operative instructions are extremely necessary to minimize the risk of complications in the weeks and months following surgery.

Taking prescribed antibiotics can reduce the risk of infections at the surgery site. Research published in The Open Orthopaedics Journal in 2015 indicated that out of a sample size of 95 patients receiving spinal surgery, only 26 percent of those had complications, mostly minor 2. The highest complication was surgical site infection. This stresses the importance of good post-operative wound care.

The AAOS indicates that physical activity too soon after surgery can result in pseudarthrosis, which may prompt a second surgery 13. Smoking, diabetes, and advanced age can also increase the risk of developing pseudarthrosis.

  • Every surgery comes with a risk of complications 2.
  • Following a doctors orders and adhering to post operative instructions are extremely necessary to minimize the risk of complications in the weeks and months following surgery.

Recovery Time for a Spinal Fusion

About Recovery From Kyphoplasty

Learn More

For those who choose spinal surgery, they must realize it takes time to heal. It can take many months to fully recover from spinal fusion surgery 13. The Mayo Clinic indicates you will most likely be in the hospital for 2 to 3 days after surgery 13. The AAOS recommends starting physical therapy at week 6 and ongoing until 3 months post surgery 13. You may be instructed to wear a back brace for a time specified by your physician. This is to keep your spine properly aligned and reduce the risks of complications 2.

Long Term Effects of a Spinal Fusion

The surgery is joining two bones together, so there is a risk for decreased range of motion, indicates the AAOS, but they note that most patients will not notice a difference. There is the possibility that the surgery is not successful in treating the pain and the symptoms return. In addition, nerve damage is a rare, but possible long term effect of having a spinal fusion 13. Blood clots, bleeding, and pain at the surgical site are potential complications of spinal fusion, according to the AAOS 13.

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle to include good nutrition, physical activity when appropriate, and following the orders given by your doctor can greatly increase the positive outcome of the spinal fusion surgery and minimize the complications that may arise otherwise 13.

  • The surgery is joining two bones together, so there is a risk for decreased range of motion, indicates the AAOS, but they note that most patients will not notice a difference.

Alternatives to Spinal Fusion

How Much Does Rotator Cuff Surgery Cost?

Learn More

Harvard Medical School makes some suggestions for alternatives for spinal fusion, as they indicate spinal fusion is only helpful in approximately 50 percent of patients 134. They list some alternatives, such as:

  • chiropractors
  • physical therapists
  • osteopaths,
  • massage therapists
×