What is a lumbar fusion?
Lumbar fusion, also called spinal fusion, spondylodesis or spondylosyndesis, is a surgical procedure to permanently join two or more vertebrae in the spine to prevent movement between them.
Why is a lumbar fusion performed?
This surgery is recommended for the treatment of fractures, instability due to degenerative disease, tumours and other ailments that prevent the spine from remaining stable. It is the last step when all other treatments, such as girdles, massages, postural improvement measures, anti-inflammatories and acquiring an adequate weight, have not been successful.
What does lumbar fusion consist of?
Lumbar fusion is performed under general anaesthesia and consists of placing bone grafts between the vertebrae with the help of metal implants and screws. It is a delicate surgery that usually lasts 4-6 hours.
How do you prepare for lumbar fusion?
During the days before surgery, it is recommended to:
- not to smoke
- avoid the use of blood-thinning medication
- inform the specialist if you have recently consumed excessive amounts of alcohol and if you have had a cold, fever, flu, herpes outbreak, and any other illnesses
On the day of surgery, it is recommended to:
- not drink or eat for 6-12 hours before surgery
- take the medication that your specialist has recommended
Upon awakening from anaesthesia, you should expect to feel some lower back pain, which is normally less severe if the surgery was done using a minimally invasive technique. The next day, you should be able to start walking and your specialist will give you some painkillers to help with any pain and discomfort. You will be expected to spend at least 2 or 3 days in the hospital before you can leave.
When you return home, you should follow this advice to help with your recovery:
- Walk as much as possible to reach an optimal pace
- Do not lift heavy weights for the first few weeks
- Do not smoke
- Do not drive for at least two weeks
Postoperative recovery consists of trying to walk and regain your usual mobility step by step. You should expect to return to normal activity after four to six weeks.
Which specialist performs lumbar fusion?
The specialist that performs lumbar fusion is an orthopaedic surgeon.