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Spinal fusion is sometimes recommended to treat:

  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Spondylolisthesis (where a vertebra slips forward or backward)
  • Spinal tumours
  • Spinal fractures
  • Spinal stenosis
  • Scoliosis (curved spine)
  • Infections in the spinal canal

To confirm the area needing fusion you consultant may an x-ray, a CT scan or an MRI scan

What happens during spinal fusion?

Spinal fusion is usually done under general anaesthetic. The procedure can take 3-4 hours.

There are several methods and surgical approaches used during spinal fusion. Some involve bone graft or the insertion of titanium plates, screws or rods. Be sure and discuss what method will be used with your consultant.

After spinal fusion

Immediately after your surgery you will be taken to the recovery area. Staff will monitor your blood pressure, heart rate and breathing. If you are in any pain be sure and tell the recovery room staff. When you are stable a nurse will take you to your room.

Once you are back in your room, our nursing team will continue to check on you to make sure you are recovering well. After you’ve recovered from any effects of the anaesthetic, you can have something to eat and drink. 

You may have a catheter to drain your bladder. This will usually be taken out the day after your surgery.

Your length of stay in hospital will depend on the extent of your spinal fusion. You will be given pain medication but be sure and let us know if you are still having discomfort.

A physiotherapist will teach you how to move around on your own. Your movements will be restricted until the fusion is confirmed. This will mean no twisting or bending.

You may need to wear a back brace during your recovery. To prevent blood clots (deep vein thrombosis) you may need to wear compression stockings.

Going home after spinal fusion

You will not be able to drive until released to do so by your consultant. Please arrange for someone to drive you home on your day of discharge.

Continue to take any pain medication as prescribed.

Keep any dressings covering your surgical wound clean and dry. You should not take a bath or swim until released to do so.

Avoid sitting for long periods. Do not lift anything heavy until your fusion has been confirmed (at least the first 6 weeks).

Take short walks during the first two weeks of recovery – increasing the distance after that time. You should not engage in any strenuous activity until released to do so by your consultant. This includes housework such as vacuuming and heavy cleaning.

Your stitches or staples will be removed by your GP or practice nurse 10-14 days after surgery.

Your consultant may recommend physiotherapy to help you learn to do everyday activities while protecting your back. Therapy may also include exercises to strength the muscles in your back.

About six weeks after your surgery you will need to come back for an x-ray. Your surgeon will confirm if your fusion has occurred and give you advice on increasing any activity.

It can take several months to recover from spinal fusion. Discuss any return to work with your consultant.

Most people make a good recovery from spinal fusion. As with any procedure there can be complications:

Specific complications of spinal fusion may include:

  • Failed fusion
  • Continued back pain
  • Nerve damage
  • Increase wear and tear in another part of your spine

Why not print this treatment page so you can discuss any concerns you have with your consultant?

Find your nearest hospital that provides this treatment

67 Lansdowne Road
Bournemouth
BH1 1RW

01202 291866

Shenfield Road
Brentwood
CM15 8EH

01277 695695

Warren Road
Brighton
BN2 6DX

01273 624488

3 Clifton Hill
Clifton
Bristol
BS8 1BN

0117 906 4870

4 Trumpington Road
Cambridge
CB2 8AF

01223 303336

Cardiff Bay Hospital
Dunleavey Drive
Cardiff
CF11 0SN

02920 836700

Wrexham Road
Chester
CH4 7QP

01244 680 444

78 Broyle Road
Chichester
PO19 6WB

01243 530600

Wonford Road
Exeter
EX2 4UG

01392 262110

25 Beaconsfield Road
Glasgow
G12 0PJ

01413349441

2 Leighton Street
Leeds
LS1 3EB

01133 882 067

Scraptoft Lane
Leicester
LE5 1HY

0116 2769 401

Clayton Road
Newcastle-upon-Tyne
NE2 1JP

0191 281 6131

Beech Road
Headington
Oxford
OX3 7RP

01865 307777

Derriford Road
Plymouth
PL6 8BG

01752 775861

Staplegrove Elm
Taunton
TA2 6AN

01823 286991

Junction Road
Norton
Stockton on Tees
TS20 1PX

01642 367439

Shores Road
Woking
GU21 4BY

01483 227800

Haxby Road
York
YO31 8TA

01904 715000

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