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What is spinal fusion surgery?

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Spinal fusion surgery is a procedure that permanently fuses two or more vertebrae in the spine, according to Mayo Clinic. During the surgery, the surgeon adds pieces of bone between the vertebrae to facilitate growth between the pieces. Some surgeries also require implants to immobilize the section of the spine.

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During spinal fusion surgery, bone is harvested from the pelvic bone or obtained from a bone bank and then used to create a bridge between the vertebrae being fused, reports WebMD. Eventually, the grafted bone causes new bone to grow. Metal implants can also be used in the fusion process to hold the vertebrae together until new bone growth is generated to fuse the vertebrae permanently.

Immobilizing part of the spine puts additional pressure on the sections above and below the surgical site, explains Mayo Clinic. However, the surgery helps to correct conditions such as a broken vertebrae, unstable spine or herniated disk. Patients who suffer lower back pain often benefit from the surgery.

After spinal fusion surgery, patients remain in the hospital two to three days, notes Mayo Clinic. The fusion process, where the bones grow together, takes several months. During this time, patients wear a back brace to help keep the back aligned. Many patients have physical therapy after the surgery. The therapy teaches the patient to stand, sit and walk in ways to ensure the spine remains aligned.

Spinal fusion surgery carries all the normal surgical risks. It also changes the way the spine works, states Mayo Clinic. Getting a second opinion prior to spinal fusion surgery is recommended. These changes often accelerate the wear on the surrounding joints. The additional wear causes more back pain in some patients.

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