Anterior Posterior Spinal Fusion

What you should know

Spinal fusion is surgery to repair vertebrae in your spine. During surgery, 2 or more vertebrae are joined together using bone grafts or implants, screws, and rods. Spinal fusion is used to treat fractured vertebrae or painful spinal conditions that cannot be controlled with medicine or other treatments. It may be used to correct a deformity, such as scoliosis. It also may be done if you have a disc (cushion between the vertebrae) that has been damaged.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment.

Risks

  • You may bleed more than usual or get an infection. Nerves in the area where the disc is removed could be injured. You may need to have more surgery. You may get a blood clot in your leg or arm. This can cause pain and swelling, and it can stop blood from flowing where it needs to go in your body. The blood clot can break loose and travel to your lungs or brain. A blood clot in your lungs can cause chest pain and trouble breathing. A blood clot in your brain can cause a stroke. These problems can be life-threatening.

  • You could have numbness or pain along the nerve path that limits movement. You could be incontinent. This means you could have problems controlling your bowel or bladder. You could be impotent. This means a man may not be able to have an erection. The dura (tough tissue covering the spinal cord) could be torn. This may cause fluid to leak out of the spinal cord. You may have to lie flat for a few days or may need surgery to sew up the hole in the dura. Without surgery, your back problems may get worse.

Getting Ready

Before Surgery:

  • Ask your caregiver if you need to stop taking aspirin or any other blood thinning medicines before your procedure.

  • Ask your caregiver before taking any over-the-counter medicine, vitamins, herbs, food supplements, or laxatives.

  • You may need blood tests before your procedure. Talk to your caregiver about these or other tests you may need. Write down the date, time and location for each test.

  • If caregivers think you may need a blood transfusion during surgery, you may be able to donate your own blood before surgery. This must be done several days before surgery. You may also ask a family member or friend with the same blood type to donate their blood. Talk to your caregiver for more information on blood donation.

The Night Before Surgery:

  • You may be given a pill to take to help you sleep.

  • Ask caregivers about directions for eating and drinking.

The Day Of Surgery:

  • Write down the correct date, time, and location of your surgery.

  • Ask your caregiver before taking any medicine on the day of surgery. These medicines include insulin, diabetic pills, high blood pressure pills, or heart pills. Bring a list of your medicines or the pill bottles with you to the hospital.

  • Do not wear contact lenses the day of surgery. You may wear your glasses.

  • If you are staying in the hospital after surgery, bring your personal belongings (bathrobe, toothbrush, hairbrush) with you. Do not wear jewelry or bring money to the hospital.

  • An anesthesiologist may talk to you before your surgery. This is the caregiver who gives you medicine to make you sleepy during surgery.

  • Make sure you have signed an informed consent. You or a close family member may be asked to sign a legal piece of paper (consent form). It gives your caregiver permission to do your surgery. Be sure all your questions have been answered before you sign this form.

Treatment

What Will Happen:

  • You may be given medicine to help you relax or make you drowsy. You will be taken to the operating room. General anesthesia will be given to keep you asleep and free from pain during the surgery. A central IV catheter may be put into a large vein under your collarbone or in your neck. The IV can be used to give medicines and to see how well your heart is doing during surgery.

  • Your caregiver will clean your skin with soap and water. Sheets will be put over you. Incisions will be made in the front, back, or both sides of your body. These incisions will give caregivers access to your spine. Cervical spine fusion is usually operated on from the front. Thoracic and lumbar fusion surgeries are usually operated on from the back. One or more pieces of bone may be taken from another area of your body to use as grafts. Bone grafts or artificial bone will be placed between the vertebrae. Metal plates, screws, and cages may be placed to hold the vertebrae together while the bone grafts heal or to help straighten the spine. The incisions will be closed with sutures. Bandages will be put over the incisions.

After Surgery:

You will be taken to the recovery room or an intensive care unit (ICU). Caregivers will watch you very closely. Bandages will cover your stitches. Do not get out of bed until your caregiver says it is okay. You may have a cast or brace on after surgery.

Waiting Room:

This is a room where your family can wait until you are ready for visitors after surgery. Caregivers can find them in this room to let them know how your surgery went. If your family leaves the hospital, ask them to leave a phone number where they can be reached. When it is time for you to go home after surgery, someone should drive you home. Do not drive home alone. An adult should stay with you for at least 24 hours after surgery.

Contact a caregiver if

  • You cannot make it to your surgery appointment on time.

  • You have a fever.

  • The problems for which you are having surgery get worse.

  • You have questions or concerns about your surgery.

© 2014 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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