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Spinal Fusion
What is it? Overview Usage Side Effects and Warnings

What is Spinal Fusion?

A spinal fusion is a surgery to weld together two vertebrae. Vertebrae are the bones that make up the spine.

To treat persistent pain and disability caused by:

  • Spinal stenosis (narrowing of the canal the spinal cord runs through)
  • Spinal injury
  • Spondylolisthesis (vertebra is out of line with the others)
  • Scoliosis (abnormal curve in the spine)
  • Weak or unstable spine, usually due to infection or tumors
  • Herniated disk

Spinal fusion may be done if the treatments below do not relieve pain and disability:

  • Rest
  • Pain medicines
  • Muscle relaxants
  • Physical therapy
  • Injection of drugs to relieve pain and swelling
  • Massage
  • Bracing
  • Behavior change therapy

Imaging tests must also show a problem that can be fixed with this procedure.

Possible Complications

Complications are rare, but no procedure is completely free of risk. If you are planning to have a spinal fusion, your doctor will review a list of possible complications, which may include:

  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Incomplete fusion of the bones
  • Blood clots
  • Hematoma (build-up of blood in the wound)
  • Nerve damage causing pain, numbness, tingling, or paralysis
  • Impaired bowel and/or bladder function
  • Reaction to anesthesia

Factors that may increase the risk of complications include:

  • Smoking
  • Poor nutrition
  • Obesity
  • Advanced age
  • Pre-existing medical condition

Call Your Doctor

After you leave the hospital, contact your doctor if any of the following occurs:

  • Signs of infection, including fever and chills *...