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Spinal Fusion

Spinal fusion is a surgical procedure performed to permanently fuse together two or more painful bones (vertebra) in the spine so that there is no movement between them. The procedure is designed to mimic the normal healing process of broken bones and facilitates faster healing of the vertebra into a single, solid bone.

Bone or bone-like material is placed in the space between two spinal vertebras. Metal plates, screws and rods may be used to hold the vertebrae together, so they can heal into one solid unit.

Although fusion of spine will reduce the flexibility of spine but it does not limit the motion of spine a lot as it involves only small segments of the spine. The procedure may put additional stress and strain on the vertebrae above and below the fused portion, and may increase the rate of their degeneration.

Indications for Spinal Fusion

Spine surgery is usually recommended only in cases where surgeon can pinpoint the source of pain by using imaging tests, like x-rays, CT, and MRI scans.

Spinal fusion can prove to be very beneficial to patients with following back conditions:

  • Degenerative disk disease
  • Spondylolisthesis
  • Spinal stenosis
  • Scoliosis
  • Injury to bones in the spine
  • Fracture of spinal bones
  • Infection making spine bones weak
  • Tumor
  • Abnormal curvatures, such as those from scoliosis or kyphosis
  • Arthritis in the spine


Spinal fusion can be performed by several different techniques and approaches depending upon the target region. It is generally performed under general anaesthesia with surgeon making an incision in the spine. Spinal fusion may follow other surgical procedures like diskectomy, laminectomy, or a foraminotomy.

As the procedure involves fusing of spinal bones, a bone graft (autograft or allograft or synthetic bone substitute) is used to permanently hold the bones together. The vertebrae may also be fixed together with rods, screws, plates, or cages. They are used to keep the vertebrae from moving until the bone grafts are fully healed.

This fusion surgery may take 3 to 4 hours.

Risks of Spinal Fusion

  • Formation of blood clots
  • Breathing problems
  • Infection in the lungs (pneumonia), bladder, or kidney
  • Blood loss
  • Heart attack or stroke
  • Reactions to medications
  • Infection in the wound or vertebral bones
  • Damaged spinal nerve
  • Early degeneration of vertebrae above and below the fused spine

Authored by Dr. Shyam Sundar K

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Dr. Shyam Sundar K

Dr. Shyam Sundar K is an eminent name in the field of neurology. He is one of the best neurosurgeon in Chennai, Tamil Nadu

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