DISC DESERT INSTITUTE FOR SPINE CARE
Spinal fusion surgery has come a long way, despite misconceptions
Apr 28, 2023, 10:18 AM | Updated: 8:21 pm
Decades ago, back operations involved long surgeries, lengthy recoveries and extended hospital stays.
Open spine surgeries often comprised of large incisions, leading to post-operative pain and long recoveries.
As Dr. Justin Field of the Desert Institute for Spine Care in Arizona explained, “we’ve come a long way over the last couple of decades, especially over the last 10 years.”
Minimally invasive lumbar fusion for those with back and leg pain looks a lot different with patients walking on the day of the operation and only spending one night in the hospital.
“If a patient comes to us with pain, weakness and numbness and the MRI shows that they have impingement and stenosis of the nerve roots with instability where one vertebra shifts in front of the other, appropriate treatment is a decompression and usually some sort of stabilization which oftentimes is in the form of a fusion,” Dr. Field said.
One-level decompression fusion in the lower back can be done with two one-inch incisions, all in the back, as opposed to the front and the side.
“The surgery is typically about an hour’s time on the operating room table.” Dr. Field said. “That’s a small amount of time for a surgery that used to typically take many, many hours. And because of this, less anesthesia time is healthier for the patients.”
In some cases, people are born with small spinal fractures called pars defects, which may also cause one bone to slip in front of the other, known as spondylosisthesis.
After surgery, patients typically work with a physical therapist at the hospital to work on getting up and moving around.
The first 3-4 weeks are the bulk of the recovery, as patients are asked to avoid any major bending, lifting or twisting as the incisions heal.
They can continue to walk without much limitation.
From 1-2 months, patients can begin light stretching and low impact aerobic exercises beyond walking before formal physical therapy at two months, if needed.
“The intraoperative and postoperative recovery is much quicker, and people are able to get back to their quality of life, their activities of daily living and even aggressive sporting activities with a fusion,” Dr. Field said.
More information on minimally invasive spine surgeries and other procedures is available online.