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Anterior Posterior Spinal Fusion


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.



  • Pain medicine: You may need medicine to take away or decrease pain.
    • Learn how to take your medicine. Ask what medicine and how much you should take. Be sure you know how, when, and how often to take it.
    • Do not wait until the pain is severe before you take your medicine. Tell your healthcare provider if your pain does not decrease.
    • Pain medicine can make you dizzy or sleepy. Prevent falls by calling someone when you get out of bed or if you need help.
  • NSAIDs , such as ibuprofen, help decrease swelling, pain, and fever. This medicine is available with or without a doctor's order. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If you take blood thinner medicine, always ask your healthcare provider if NSAIDs are safe for you. Always read the medicine label and follow directions.
  • Muscle relaxers help decrease pain and muscle spasms.
  • Take your medicine as directed. Contact your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him or her if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Follow up with your healthcare provider or orthopedic surgeon as directed:

You may need imaging tests such as x-rays, CT, or MRI scans to make sure your vertebrae are healing correctly. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

Physical therapy:

You may need physical therapy after your surgery. A physical therapist will teach you exercises to help improve movement and strength. Physical therapy can also help decrease pain.

  • A physical therapist may fit you for a back brace. This brace may give you support and help you feel more comfortable, or it may limit your movement. You may need to wear the brace for about 3 months.
  • Your physical therapist may teach you exercises to do at home. These may be done alone or with the help of a family member. Do only the range of motion exercises your physical therapist suggests. Do not do other exercises. Do not do the range of motion exercises more often than directed.
  • You may be asked to do more as you get stronger and as the pain decreases.

Wound Care:

  • Ice: Ice helps decrease swelling, pain, and redness. Ice is best started after surgery and used for 24 to 48 hours afterwards. Put crushed ice in a plastic bag and cover it with a towel. Place this on your incisions for 15 to 20 minutes every hour as long as you need it. Do not sleep on the ice pack because you may get frostbite.
  • Clean: You may have thin strips of tape on your incisions. Keep them clean and dry, except when you are bathing. Let them fall off by themselves. Do not pull them off. Ask family, friends, or your home healthcare provider to help you carefully wash your incisions with soap and water. Ask your healthcare provider or orthopedic surgeon for more information on how often you should clean your wound.

Bathing with stitches:

Ask when you can bathe. Do not let your stitches get wet unless your healthcare provider says it is okay. Gently wash the part of your body that has the stitches. Do not rub the stitches to dry your skin. Pat the area gently with a towel. When the area is dry, put on a clean, new bandage as directed. A shower chair in the shower or tub may make bathing easier for you. A rubber mat on the floor of your shower or bathtub may also keep you from falling while bathing.


Avoid activities that involve heavy lifting, pulling, and pushing. Do not lift anything over your head. Do not twist or bend at the waist. You may also need to limit other body movements. Ask your healthcare provider when you can start doing your normal activities.

  • Resting: You may feel like resting more after surgery. Slowly start to do more each day. Rest when you feel it is needed. Do not lie on your stomach. Limit the times you walk up and down stairs to once a day for 1 to 2 weeks if possible. Your physical therapist may give you specific instructions on sleeping and sitting positions.
  • Driving: Ask when you may drive again. Do not take a car trip even as a passenger until your healthcare provider says it is okay.

Contact your healthcare provider orthopedic surgeon if:

  • Your pain is worse even after you take pain medicine.
  • You have chills, a cough, or feel weak and achy.
  • You have a fever.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Seek care immediately or call 911 if:

  • Your incisions are swollen, red, or have pus coming from them, or your stitches or staples come apart.
  • Your bandage becomes soaked with blood.
  • You cannot control when you urinate or have a bowel movement.
  • Your arm or leg feels warm, tender, and painful. It may look swollen and red.
  • Some parts of your body are numb, tingly, cool to touch, or look blue or pale.
  • You cannot feel or move your legs.
  • You have trouble breathing or chest pain all of a sudden.

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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.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.