Complications and side effects of spinal fusion surgery include infection, poor wound healing, bleeding, blood clots, and pain at the bone graft site, according to Mayo Clinic. Longer-term risks include accelerated risks to vertebrae on either side of the fusion and increased pain in those adjacent vertebrae.
The procedure has other risks, complications and side effects, such as damage to the spinal nerve, infections within the spinal bones, and breathing problems, notes MedlinePlus. Damage to the nerves may lead to weakness, loss of sensation and pain in the affected area. Bowel and bladder problems may also occur. Infections, if they happen, most often inhabit the kidneys, bladder and lungs. Blood clots in the legs may travel to the lungs. Following surgery, patients may react to medications given to them.
Doctors usually perform spinal fusions if patients have spinal fractures, weak bones due to tumors, spondylolisthesis, arthritis of the spine or abnormal curvatures, says MedlinePlus. A surgeon permanently fuses two or more spinal bones so that there is no possibility of movement between them. Bone grafts may come from other parts of the body, such as the pelvis. Doctors may also get bone material from a bone bank, or they may create a part from synthetic bone material. Vertebrae may also be fused together with rods, plates, cages or screws. Spinal fusion surgery normally lasts three to four hours.