Spinal fusion is a surgical procedure that is used to eliminate problems that affect small bones in the spine (vertebrae). It is basically a “welding” process. The essential idea is to fuse with each other two or more vertebrae allowing them to heal into a single, solid bone.
Prof. Dr. M. Tariq Sohail is an orthopedic surgeon in Lahore. In this session with oladoc, he discusses one of the most complicated issues related to spinal fusion and spinal surgery in Pakistan. He also talks about the causes of spinal fusion and recovery time required after surgery.
Q.1: What is spinal fusion?
Spinal fusion is one of the most common surgeries performed in this day and age, it is a major surgery aimed at treating back injuries that hamper day to day activities of the patient. The surgery involves the use of screws, rods and bone grafts to help stabilize the spine and eliminate any complications affecting the spine.
The surgery is used as the last line of defence when other procedures such as medications and injections have been exhausted.
Q.2: What are the main causes of performing spinal surgery?
Wear and tear of the structures that move frequently in the body is common, due to increased movements the lower back and lower neck is affected the most because they are mobile segments of the spine, in extreme cases even the spinal disc collapses, causing extreme pain for the patient.
Q.3: What is the recovery time for spinal fusion surgery?
Since spinal fusion surgery is major surgery, it takes up to three weeks to six months to recover depending on the area of spine targeted. The patient is kept in the hospital for a few days after the procedure, wound care; managing pain and learning to get up and walk around the bed are taught to the patient to allow for proper healing and fusion of vertebrae.
Q.4: How long does it take for spinal fusion to fuse?
The fusing of vertebrae may take up to six weeks and even longer depending on the condition of each patient. During this time, physical therapy is recommended to the patient to move freely and safely. Optimum recovery can take anywhere from three to six months.
During this time, it is recommended to adopt a healthy diet rich in calcium and essential nutrients and vitamins. Doctors also discourage strain and hazardous movements during this time to allow for quick recovery.
Q.5: What is the success rate of spinal fusion surgery?
In Pakistan, patients are mostly afraid of undergoing major surgeries and show hesitation in doing so. Timely diagnosis and procedure result in improved pain in about 60-70% of the cases which are massive improvements, the success rate is high with patient compliance.
However, potential risks include anesthesia, infection, blood loss, nerve injury and lack of a solid fusion. These risks can be effectively avoided if the procedure is performed by an experienced surgeon and all post-operative precautions are taken.
If you want to learn more about spinal fusion surgery and its procedure, then watch the full interview.