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Spinal Fusion Surgery


What Is Spinal Fusion Surgery?

Doctors do spinal fusion surgery to help teens with scoliosis or other spine problems.

It's called "fusion" because the surgery lets two or more bones in the spine (called vertebrae) fuse (grow together) into one solid bone. This helps the spine grow in a straighter position and sometimes eases back pain.

Why Is Spinal Fusion Surgery Done?

Many teens with scoliosis don't need medical treatment. Others will wear a brace to keep the spine from developing more of a curve.

But someone might need surgery if:

In that case, a spinal fusion might be needed to straighten the curve as much as possible and stop it from getting worse.

What Happens During Spinal Fusion Surgery?

If you have a spinal fusion, you'll get general anesthesia before the procedure. This lets you sleep through the operation, which takes several hours.

What Happens After Spinal Fusion Surgery?

After a fusion, most teens stay in the hospital for a couple of days while they recover from surgery and increase their movement. By the time you go home, you'll be able to walk around and do many day-to-day things (shower, dress yourself, and climb stairs).

Someone whose scoliosis is very severe or who has other medical conditions might need a longer hospital stay. The care team will watch for and treat any complications (such as pneumonia, constipation, or trouble eating).

Most teens take prescription medicines regularly for less than 2 weeks to help them deal with pain and muscle spasms. Over time, they can take less pain medicine. Sometimes, they can switch to acetaminophen or ibuprofen if the health care provider says it's OK.

What Should I Do After Spinal Fusion Surgery?

While you recover at home:

Your health care provider also will let you know when you can go back to school. Most teens return about 3–4 weeks after the surgery, but you can't go to gym class or play sports for a while (usually 2–6 months) because the bones are still fusing.

Let your teachers know if you'll need help at first, such as extra time to get through the hallways or a second set of schoolbooks to keep at home.

Sometimes teens will need physical therapy to complete their recovery. This usually starts about 4–6 weeks after surgery, and can continue for several months.

Looking Ahead

After about 6 months to a year, the bones should be fully fused. Although the metal rods are no longer needed, they'll be left in your back because they aren't doing any harm and taking them out would involve another operation.

After a full recovery, you can play sports again and do all the activities that you enjoyed before surgery.

Date reviewed: August 2017


Note: All information on TeensHealth® is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.

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