Spinal fusion surgery patients can expect the procedure to last for a few hours while the surgeon uses a bone graft to fuse the vertebrae together, according to WebMD. Metal plates are inserted to support the vertebrae during recovery. The procedure requires an in-patient stay of three to four days.
After undergoing spinal fusion surgery, patients are given pain medications to help control pain or swelling at the incision and graft sites, asserts Mayo Clinic. The patient wears a brace during recovery to help the graft heal properly. As a result of spinal fusion surgery, patients cannot move their spine as they usually do because the fused vertebrae can inhibit complete movement.
The recovery time for spinal fusion surgery can be lengthy, but the patient's mobility is usually not limited, states WebMD. Patients are encouraged to do low-stress activities such as swimming or walking. Although spinal fusion surgery can work for patients with spinal injuries, herniated disks and spinal stenosis, the procedure does carry some serious risks, including nerve damage, pain and breakdown of the graft or metal plates. Spinal fusion surgery can treat back pain for a short amount of time, but it may cause more back pain when the other vertebrae break down, claims Mayo Clinic.