Spinal Fusion Surgery in Bethesda, MD
Living with back pain can be excruciating. It impacts your quality of life and may even keep you from the activities you enjoy. One of the surgical solutions we employ at OrthoBethesda is spinal fusion.
Whether you're an elderly patient with disc degeneration or you've suffered an injury to your spine causing chronic back pain, we invite Bethesda, Maryland patients to make an appointment at OrthoBethesda to find out if spinal fusion is the best option for you.
What Is Spinal Fusion?
Spinal fusion is a surgical option we use to correct issues with the vertebrae of your spine. During the operation, we fuse two or more of these small spinal bones so that when they heal, they form a single, solid bone. This eliminates pain when moving, and it can also restore stability to your spine.
Over 350,000 spinal fusion surgeries occur every year in the United States, the majority of which are lumbar spinal fusion which involves the lower spine.
During the operation, we employ bone grafting by placing small pieces of bone into the space between the vertebrae, which, over time, fuses the bones. As they fuse, the bones are immobilized using metal rods and screws. Your orthopedic surgeon may also use external bracing or casting to ensure full immobilization during your recovery process.
Once full spinal fusion occurs, it eliminates motion between the fused vertebral segments. By limiting spinal flexibility, many patients find that their painful symptoms are relieved. The surgery can also stop the progression of spinal deformities like scoliosis. Because spinal fusions only involve these small segments, it does not limit motion very much.
Symptoms and Back Issues Treated by Spinal Fusion
When you come to OrthoBethesda with persistent back pain, we perform a full orthopedic evaluation, which includes looking through your medical history, conducting a physical as well as any necessary diagnostic tests. Only then will we discuss both non-surgical and surgical solutions, one of which could be spinal fusion.
In general, we begin with conservative measures that don't involve surgery, like medication or physical therapy. However, if your symptoms persist, it may be time to consider spinal fusion surgery.
There are several symptoms and conditions that spinal fusion can treat:
- Pain in your back, thigh, buttock or legs
- Numbness, tingling or weakness in your legs
- Spinal vertebrae injuries
- Slipped disc or herniated disc
- Scoliosis or kyphosis
- Spinal instability caused by infections or tumors
Your Spinal Fusion Surgery
Before undergoing spinal fusion surgery, you may be asked to stop taking certain medications that could interfere with the operation's results. On the day of your surgery, you'll be admitted to the hospital and then taken for preoperative prep. Most patients receive general anesthesia which puts you to sleep during the entire operation. However, you may also get spinal anesthesia which numbs you from the waist down, so you feel nothing, but you remain awake.
There are three different techniques your surgeon may employ during your spinal fusion:
- Anterior approach (approached from the front)
- Posterior approach (from the back)
- Lateral approach (from the side)
Depending on the condition of your spine, lumbar interbody fusion surgery generally takes one to three hours. During the operation, your orthopedic surgeon removes any bone or ligament that overlays the nerve roots as well as removing displaced disc material. This process relieves pressure on your nerve roots. In most cases, the actual fusion is performed at the same time, especially if there is spinal instability.
Risks Associated With Spinal Fusion Surgery
Complications associated with back surgery are low. However, there are potential risks involved in any operation. Spinal fusion surgery complications could include:
- Difficulty urinating
- Decreased intestinal function
- Heart attack or stroke
- Blood clots
- Recurrent disc herniations
- Nerve damage
Some patients also continue to have some persistent pain in their lower back. However, you can reduce this by staying in good physical condition.
Recovery and Rehabilitation After Spinal Fusion Surgery
Most patients experience pain for the first few days after spinal fusion surgery. However, you should be able to manage this with pain medication. You must keep your fused spine in proper alignment, so our team will teach you how to move, sit, stand, walk and reposition yourself.
Once you're ready to go home, you may need the help of family or friends for a few days to assist you in daily tasks like dressing, washing and other activities. You will also need to arrange transportation during this time, as you shouldn't drive a car after your surgery.
As you recover at home, be sure to follow your doctor's instructions, so you heal properly. This includes:
- Wound care
- Eating well-balanced meals
- Drinking plenty of fluids
- Low impact workouts once you are able
- Staying alert to warning signs of blood clots and infection including fever, swelling, chills and pain
Periodically after your surgery, you will meet with your OrthoBethesda physician to ensure your recovery is progressing properly.
Speak to an OrthoBethesda Surgeon About Spinal Fusion Surgery
If you are experiencing back pain, then don't wait. Patients in and near Bethesda, MD should contact OrthoBethesda today to speak with our team about your treatment options. We can give you information about conservative measures and figure out if a spinal fusion surgery would benefit your condition. We will take the time to ensure you fully understand all your choices. You can also call us at (301) 530-1010 to schedule your appointment.