What to Expect from a Spinal Fusion Procedure

spinal fusion

Spinal fusion is a common treatment for a wide range of issues. As the name implies, the procedure involves fusing two vertebrae together in the spine. It might be in the neck or back, depending on the individual’s need. Doctors use the procedure to treat such spinal issues as spinal stenosis, degenerative disk disease, and others.

Spine and orthopedic surgeon Dr. Faisal Mahmood and the staff at One Oak Medical can walk you through a successful spinal fusion procedure.


The first step in any treatment plan is a diagnosis. Not every kind of back pain benefits from spinal fusion, so ensuring that your pain is due to one of the spinal issues that respond well is vital.

Dr. Mahmood uses a wide range of non-invasive tests to determine the exact location and issue in your spine. This could include a physical exam, X-rays, a CT scan, and possibly an MRI. This gives Dr. Mahmood the best look at your bones, muscles, and ligaments as well as the nerves embedded in the spinal column.

Treatment plan

Together, you and Dr. Mahmood come up with a treatment plan. During this phase, he discusses which vertebrae he intends to fuse and how he will approach them. He discusses the material used for fusion and whether he will use a plate or rod to stabilize the vertebrae until they heal.

You also get a clearer idea of how long you will be in the hospital. Depending on the area affected, your age, and your overall health, you can expect to be in the hospital for two to four days.

Fusion material

The vertebrae are fused with bone material — either real or artificial — which works as a bridge between the two bones. Dr. Mahmood can take small bits of bone from the crest of your hips or use bone from your spine that is removed during the fusion surgery. He might also use bone from another donor, like a cadaver bone.

In place of real bone, Dr. Mahmood can also use synthetic bone graft material to support the vertebrae as the spine heals. This material might be ceramic or calcium-based. One of the benefits of artificial bone material is that it can be molded into any shape needed for your spine.

After surgery

To manage your post-surgery pain, Dr. Mahood may give you a prescription or suggest over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. In addition, there are also topical pain relievers that can reduce pain at the incision site.

After surgery, you meet with a physical therapist to map out a plan for your rehabilitation. Depending on which vertebra were fused, you begin with walking and stretching exercises. Following Dr. Mahood’s instructions, the therapist works with you to strengthen and stabilize your muscles to heal and protect your spine.

If you’re interested in learning more about spinal fusion, call one of our six locations for an appointment with Dr. Mahmood or book online. He can help you decide what treatment plan will keep you standing tall.

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