A spinal fusion is a surgery to connect two or more bones in your spine permanently. The basic idea is to stop the movement of the bones that are causing pain. This is done by either removing the disc between the bones or using metal screws, plates, and/or rods to hold the bones together. It may also involve using bone graft material to encourage your body to grow new bone between the connected bones. Here we will look into what to expect 6 months after spinal fusion.
The surgery may be done from the front, back, or side of your spine. It may be done through a large incision (open surgery) or with smaller incisions and special instruments (endoscopic or minimally invasive surgery).
What Happens Immediately After Surgery?
After spinal fusion surgery, you will be taken to a recovery room, where you will be closely monitored.
- Most likely, a tube will be inserted into your chest to help drain any extra fluid and a tube in your urinary tract (Foley catheter) to help drain urine from your bladder.
- You may also have a small tube in your back (epidural catheter) to give you pain medicine. These tubes will be removed before you go home.
- You will probably stay in the hospital for 3-5 days after open surgery and 1-2 days following a minimally invasive procedure.
How well you recover and how long you stay will depend on many factors, including your health before surgery, how well you tolerate pain, and whether any complications develop after surgery.
Recovery at Home
- Most people need 4-8 weeks off from work after spinal fusion surgery. If your job involves heavy lifting, you may need up to 12 weeks off. Your activity level during this time will be limited so that your fusion has time to heal.
- For example, you should avoid any activities that would cause twisting or bending of your back or put a strain on your incision site. As time goes on and healing occurs, you can slowly increase your activity level until you are able to return to all of your normal activities, including sports.
Numbness, Tingling, and Weakness
- It is not uncommon to have numbness, tingling, or weakness in your legs or feet after spinal fusion surgery due to damage to the nerves around your spine during surgery. This is usually temporary and improves within the first few months after surgery as the swelling goes down around your nerves.
- In some cases, these symptoms may not improve and can become permanent. Speak with your doctor if these symptoms do not improve or are bothersome so that he or she can recommend treatment options for managing them.
Spinal fusion surgery is a major operation that requires a significant recovery period. Most people experience some sort of numbness; however, this is usually only temporary and should improve within the first few months as swelling subsides around the nerves.
If these symptoms persist or become bothersome, speak with your doctor so that he or she can recommend treatment options for managing them. The doctor will also be able to give you an idea of when you can expect to return to your normal activities.