Spinal Fusion

During spinal fusion, your surgeon locks together, or fuses, specific bones in your spine that are causing pain. This limits the movement of these bones, which may help relieve your pain. Even so, you may feel more flexible after a fusion because you can move with less pain.

Five health care providers wearing surgical gowns, masks, and hats doing surgery.

Types of spinal fusion surgery

Which section of the spine is fused depends on where your pain is. Sections of the spine that may be fused include:

  • The neck (called cervical fusion)

  • The midback (called thoracic fusion) 

  • The lower back (called lumbar fusion)

Fusion can be done from the front (anterior), side (lateral), or back (posterior) of the body. Your surgeon will decide which is best for you.

Before your surgery

You will most likely arrive at the hospital on the morning of the surgery. Be sure to follow all of your healthcare provider’s instructions on preparing for surgery.

  • You should stop eating or drinking 10 hours before surgery.

  • If you take a daily medicine, ask if you should still take it the morning of surgery.

  • If you are taking any blood-thinning medicines, including aspirin, make sure to discuss them with your healthcare provider at least a week in advance.

  • At the hospital, your temperature, pulse, breathing, and blood pressure will be checked. An IV (Intravenous) line will be started to provide fluids and medicines needed during surgery.


At the start of your surgery, you’ll be given general anesthesia. This medicine will make you “sleep” through the surgery. An anesthesiologist is in charge of the anesthesia. He or she will meet with you before the surgery begins to talk to you and answer your questions.

After surgery

After the surgery, you’ll go to the postanesthesia care unit. You’ll stay there until you are fully awake, usually a few hours. Then you’ll go to your room. With cervical fusion, you may go home the next day. With lumbar fusion, you may stay in the hospital for 2 to 7 days.

When to call the surgeon

Seek immediate medical attention if you have any of these symptoms during your recovery:

  • Increased pain, redness, or drainage from the incision

  • New onset numbness, tingling, weakness, loss of bowel or bladder control 

  • Fever over 100.0°F (37.7°C)

  • Signs of a blood clot, which can include swelling, redness, and pain in the calf

  • Chest pain or shortness of breath


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