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Spinal Fusion: Risks vs. Benefits

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Spinal Fusion: Risks vs. Benefits

  • Dr. Charla Fischer
  • Aug 21, 2018

Back pain and immobility may be good enough reasons for you to consider spinal fusion surgery. No doubt you want to get your normal life back to the way it was before the nagging or sometimes debilitating symptoms of back problems began. If you’re facing the possibility of spinal fusion surgery, you’ll find that the benefits of this procedure outweigh the risks.

What conditions does spinal fusion treat?

This surgery corrects problems with the vertebrae and discs of the spine. The goal is to fuse together damaged vertebrae so they heal to create one solid, stable bone. Some common conditions that spinal fusion surgery treats are degenerative disc disease, spinal stenosis, spondylolisthesis, fractures, infection, scoliosis, and tumors. Consulting a reputable physician like Dr. Fischer at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City will allow you to get the correct diagnosis and learn if spinal fusion surgery is the recommended treatment for you.

What are the risks?

Any surgery has risks that should be considered. An experienced physician like Dr. Fischer will go over all potential risks with you so that you can make an informed decision regarding surgery. Possible complications with spinal fusion surgery include:

  • Infection – antibiotics are typically given before and after surgery to decrease the risk for infection, which is a rare complication.
  • Excessive bleeding – minor bleeding is normal, but excessive bleeding sometimes occurs in multilevel fusion surgeries.
  • Nerve damage – this complication is rare, and permanent nerve damage is extremely uncommon.
  • Blood clots – precautions are taken to prevent blood clots from forming in the legs. Patients with clotting disorders should let their surgeon know before any procedure is performed.
  • Pain – a small number of patients experience pain at the location of the bone graft.
  • Pseudoarthrosis – smokers are at higher risk for incomplete bone formation in the area of surgery. If this condition called pseudoarthrosis occurs, further surgeries may be necessary.
  • Spinal fluid leak – it is possible that the clear fluid surrounding the nerves in a tissue sac called the dura can be punctured during surgery, requiring repair at the time of surgery or requiring additional surgeries.

What are the benefits?

Now that you’ve seen the bad things that can happen, keep in mind that most spinal fusion patients do not experience complications. Those that obtain great results from the surgery far outnumber those with problems. Dr. Fischer has a proven track record of successful spinal fusion surgeries in which patients are happy with the results. Here are the benefits you will likely experience from spinal fusion surgery:

  • Reduced pain – correcting the vertebral and disc problems will nearly always reduce or fully eliminate pain.
  • Increased mobility – many patients experience an improved range of motion due to reduced pain.
  • Less pain medications – successful spinal fusion surgery means taking fewer pain medications, or none at all.
  • Increased spinal stability – in the cases where spinal fusion is performed along with spinal decompression surgery, a more stable and stronger structure is developed so that future surgeries are avoided.

Contact Dr. Fischer to see if spinal fusion is right for you.


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