When you go in for your spinal fusion surgery, you want to know how long it’ll take from start to finish. Knowing the approximate time can help you feel more relaxed about the whole thing. There are also things you should do to prepare and after the spinal fusion surgery to make the whole process go as smoothly as possible.
How Long Does Spinal Fusion Surgery Take?
This surgery helps join two or more vertebrae so they’ll grow into a solid piece of bone. This surgery can take anywhere from 2 1/2 hours to 6 or 7 hours. It can even go longer than this, and every situation is unique. How long your particular operation will last will depend on a variety of factors.
These factors include how many vertebrae are involved, whether or not spinal nerves are pinched and need decompression, how badly diseased the vertebrae are, and if there is scarring from previous surgeries. Your surgeon can usually give you a rough estimate of how long your procedure will take. However, they may not know for certain until they start to perform the surgery.
Defining Spinal Fusion
At each level in your spine, you have facet joints in the back paired with disc space in the front. These areas work together to define a motion segment. Your back pain can come from degenerative changes or an injury that allows your vertebrae to move abnormally and rub against one another. This forms an unstable motion segment. Your surgeon will perform spinal fusion surgery to stop one segment’s motion. In turn, this can decrease your pain or stop it completely.
Your surgeon can fuse your bones together using bone from somewhere else in your body, your body’s natural healing process, using cage devices, or using bone from a bone bank. For the fusion to happen after surgery, a bone graft will help bridge the two spaces and eventually form a solid piece.
It’s essential for both the vertebrae and bone graft to stay immobile while the bed and bone graft heal. Metal rods, plates, screws, or cages are usually employed to keep everything together and stable. Your body will start the natural healing process after your surgery. The bone graft should connect the vertebrae above and below it within three to six months, and this forms a single piece of solid bone.
Preparing for Spinal Fusion Surgery
Your doctor will perform a physical exam before the surgery to make sure your lungs and heart are healthy. They may also order a chest x-ray, electrocardiogram, and a blood test. You should take this time to discuss any and all medications you’re taking, including herbal health supplements, prescriptions, and over-the-counter medications. They may advise you to temporarily stop taking some medications 7 to 10 days before your surgery, particularly blood thinners.
Preparing Home for Surgery
After your spinal fusion surgery, you shouldn’t be reaching or bending. So, make a point to move anything that you use a lot to the level that falls between your hips and shoulders. You may want to prepare meals and freeze them for the first few days, and it’s a good idea to put non-slips in your shower or tub.
Your doctor may suggest that you install grab bars in the toilet or tub area to help you get up and down. If your toilet sits low, get a raised toilet seat. Find a chair that has a firm cushion on it, as well as armrests. The seat should be at knee level, so you don’t have a hard time getting out of it.
Also, a lot of people have trouble with constipation after spinal fusion surgery if they get pain medication and anesthesia. For the week leading up to the surgery, eat vegetables, fruits, whole-grain cereals and bread, and beans to increase your fiber intake. Drink between 8 and 10 glasses of water a day. Also, walking can help you stay regular.
Morning of the Surgery
Your doctor will instruct you to take a shower using antibacterial soap and dress in fresh clothing. You don’t want to eat or drink anything, but brushing your teeth is okay. If they told you to take your medication, do so using small sips of water. The surgical team will tell you when to arrive at the surgical center, and it’s usually an hour or two before the scheduled procedure.
When you get to the hospital, a nurse will check you in and take you to your room. They’ll ask you to remove your clothing and put on a surgical gown. You should also remove any hairpins, contacts, or jewelry at this time. Some surgical centers have locking cabinets for your personal belongings, while others ask that you give your items to your visitors to hang onto until you get into your assigned room after your spinal fusion surgery.
Next, the anesthesiologist will come in and talk with you. They’ll explain how the anesthesia can impact you and any risks involved. They’ll put an IV into your arm, and they may give you antibiotics to decrease your risk of infection. Once you’re ready, they’ll take you to the operating room using a cart or stretcher.
The nurse will then direct your visitors to the waiting area. Due to current events, you will want to ask about the visitor policy. Some hospitals allow a single person, while others have a no visitor policy for the time being. When you finish your surgery, the doctor will come and talk to your visitors about how it went.
When you get to the operating room, they’ll give you anesthesia. Your surgery will take several hours, and this includes skin preparation, anesthesia time, and positioning. They’ll take you to recovery when you finish. Some people go home the same day, and others stay for observation.
Contact Florida Spine Associates
If you’d like more information on this surgery, contact us. Our staff are ready to answer your questions, address your concerns, and help in any way we can.