Spinal cord injury is damage to the spinal cord. It’s an extremely serious type of physical trauma that’s likely to have a lasting & significant impact on most aspects of daily life. Spinal fusion surgery is useful in helping relieve intense back pain caused by a number of spinal diseases or disorders. This procedure aims to join, or fuse together two or more adjacent vertebrae that have been affected by injury or disease. By joining together two consecutive vertebrae, movement of painful vertebra is restricted & the patient is likely to get relief. According to reports, worldwide success rates of spine fusion surgery are between 70 – 90 percent.
What is Spine Fusion Surgery?
Spinal cord or spine or backbone is the most important portion of the physical anatomy of human beings. We cannot do anything without support of the spine. It is the most engaging & actively utilized part of individual bodies. There are many things which slowly & steadily affect our spine; normal activities like sitting & walking start to change structure & create gaps in the vertebrae of our spinal column. Some of these issues if diagnosed at an early stage can be treated with physical therapy & by using mere medications, but some other issues are major enough to require spine surgery.
Spinal fusion surgery is designed to permanently join two or more vertebrae in patient’s spine to correct a deformity, improve stability or minimize back pain. Spine surgeons may suggest spinal fusion surgery to treat the following spine problems.
- Broken Vertebrae – Not every damaged vertebra needs spinal fusion surgery. Many vertebrae heal without any treatment. But if it makes the spinal column of patients unstable, then spinal fusion surgery may be needed.
- Deformities of Spine – Spinal fusion aids in correcting various spinal deformities, such as kyphosis or scoliosis.
- Spinal Instability or Weakness – Patient’s spine may become weak & unstable if there is any uncommon or excessive movement between two vertebrae. This may also be a side effect of arthritis in patient’s spine. In such cases, spinal fusion surgery can prove beneficial in restoring stability of spine.
- Spondylolisthesis – Spinal fusion surgery may be required to treat spondylolisthesis if this condition causes serious back pain or nerve crowding that creates numbness or leg pain.
- Herniated Disc – Spinal fusion surgery may be used to preserve the spine after removal of herniated discs.
Spinal cord may get damaged due to many reasons. Some common symptoms of spinal cord injury include the following.
- Problem while walking, standing or sitting
- Loss of control of bladder or bowels
- Inability to move legs or arms
- Severe headache
- Loss of consciousness
- Feeling of tingling or numbness in extremities
- Severe pain, stiffness or pressure in the back or neck region
- Unnatural positioning of the head
There are two main types or ‘approaches’ that spine surgeons will choose from to perform spinal fusion surgical procedures.
- Anterior Lumbar Fusion – In this procedure, the surgeon will make an incision from the front of the body through the lower abdomen.
- Posterior Lumbar Fusion – This requires the surgeon to make an incision from the back or the side of the body and is also known as the lateral approach.
It is necessary to note that with any type of spine fusion, there is potential risk of clinical failure despite attaining successful spinal fusion.
A complete physical examination is done by surgeons to check the overall health status of patients before spine surgery. In addition to this, following imaging tests may be ordered by spine surgeons in order to identify the spinal disorder.
- Computerized Tomography (CT) Scan – CT scans help in detecting spinal disorders by creating images of internal structures of the patient’s spine.
- X-rays – X-rays are able to reveal vertebral or spinal column disorders, fractures, various spinal tumors or degenerative changes within spine.
- MRI Scan – MRI produces clear images of patient’s spine with help of strong magnetic field & radio waves. MRI is extremely helpful for looking at the spinal cord & detecting condition of herniated discs, blood clots or any other masses that might be responsible for compressing the spinal cord.
Preparing for Spine Fusion Surgery
During initial consultation, spine surgeons will give specific instructions to patients. Patients should tell surgeons about any medicines that they are taking. Patients may be asked to give up some of these medications before spine fusion surgery.
Patients will need to undergo complete physical examination in order to ensure that they are in good health. Usually, blood tests, electrocardiogram (EKG) & X-ray tests are required to be performed prior to surgery.
Patients should frankly discuss underlying health conditions & medications or herbal supplements they are consuming. Some medicines which are responsible for thinning blood need to be stopped two weeks prior to spinal fusion surgery. Drugs which aid in thinning blood include the following.
- Fish oil
- Vitamin E
- Herbals (gingko, glucosamine)
- Blood Thinners (Heparin, Coumadin)
- Anti-Inflammatories (Naprosyn,Aleve)
- Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin)
- Antiplatelet (Ticlid, Plavix,Orgaran, Fragmin, Innohep, Lovenox)
- Wintergreen Snuff
Patients should stop drinking alcohol at least a week before undergoing spinal fusion surgery because it can cause bleeding problems after completion of surgery.
The most essential & necessary step that patients can take to ensure success of spinal fusion surgery is quit smoking. It includes cigars, cigarettes, pipes, tobacco & snuff. Nicotine averts growth of bone & puts the patient at greater risk for a failed spinal fusion. In addition to this, smoking also decreases blood circulation, resulting in passive wound recovery & chances of infection. There are various options available which can help patients to quit the habit of smoking.
- Pills without nicotine (Chantix)
- Over the counter & prescription nicotine replacements
- Tobacco counseling sessions
- Patients should not drink any alcoholic beverages
- If patients are suffering from fever, cold or any other illness on the day before surgery, they should immediately contact the spine surgeon
- No drink or food is allowed past midnight before the day of surgery
- Patients should bathe using any antibacterial soap & dress in washed & comfortable loose clothing
Before signing the consent form, it is important for patients to completely understand the procedure. Following list of questions can help them to clear their doubts.
- What is spinal fusion surgery?
- Why is spinal fusion surgery recommended to me?
- Why is this surgery required?
- Are there any significant reasons?
- What are the other surgical options available on my case?
- Are there any nonsurgical alternatives available based upon my current health condition?
- What are the advantages of spine fusion surgery & how long I expect them to last?
- What are the potential risks & complications of undergoing spine fusion surgery?
- What will happen if I do not wish to undergo this surgery?
- Whom should I contact to have a second opinion?
- What is your experience in doing spine fusion surgery?
- Where will you perform this surgery?
- What kind of anesthesia will be given to me during operation?
- What can I expect during the recovery phase?
- When can I get back to normal routine?
- Will I experience pain post-surgery?
Spinal fusion surgery can be done from a front incision (anterior approach) or a back incision (posterior approach). Also, minimally invasive procedure techniques are now used for certain cases requiring spinal fusion. The first thing after choosing the type of approach & making the incision is to get a suitable bone graft that is required to ‘fuse’ together the affected vertebrae. Smaller pieces of bone are used to fill in the space between the vertebrae. There are different options for cultivating a bone graft, these are given as follows.
- Autograft – Auto grafting method uses bone pieces acquired from the patient themselves. Usually a small piece of bone from the hip is harvested & used to seal the gap between two vertebrae.
- Allograft – This method uses bone pieces acquired from an external graft bank (cadavers/donors).
- Artificial Bone Graft – At times ‘demineralized bone matrices’ (DBM) are made from calcium acquired from cadaver bones. These DBMs are used to create a soft putty-like substance that helps in fusing the vertebrae. Doctors might sometimes decide to cultivate ‘bone morphogenetic protein’ (BMP) which are strong artificial bone-making proteins.
- Ceramic – Artificial phosphate/calcium materials are similar in characteristic to autograft bones & are often used for ‘fusing’ vertebrae.
After the doctor has chosen the type of graft, they will immobilize the fused vertebrae in place to facilitate the fusion process. For this purpose spine surgeons often use rods, screws & plates to hold spine in place until the fusing process is complete.
Recovery after spinal fusion surgery depends mostly on several factors such as the type of surgery used, patient’s age & overall health status, type of method used for fusion, etc. In case spinal fusion surgery is performed using minimally invasive (laparoscopic) methods then recovery time is considerably lessened & the patient might be allowed to go home within 2 – 3 days depending upon the pace of recovery in individual cases. Physical therapy treatment sessions will usually be advised after spinal fusion surgery in order to regain strength, stability & movement back within the spinal column.
Like in any major type of surgery, there is a slight risk of certain complications that can arise. These are listed below.
- Infection – Risk of infection is foreseen & the doctor will prescribe required antibiotics to lessen this risk.
- Bleeding – This is expected but is not a remarkable risk.
- Pain – In case of pain at the operated graft site, doctors will prescribe certain painkillers to alleviate pain.
- Pseudarthrosis – This is generally seen in patients who have a habit of smoking. Smoking often hinders the bone forming ability of the body.
- Nerve damage – In case a nerve gets affected during surgery the doctor will advise precautionary measures that will help normalize the affected nerve within sufficient time.
Spinal fusion surgery is one of the best methods to alleviate pain arising because of friction between two or more vertebrae in the spinal column. It has very high success rates & is known to help patients recover activities to a high level.
Spinal fusion is the most suitable & effective treatment for spinal fractures & instability or deformities in spine. However, even if spinal fusion surgery provides great relief, back pain may come back in the future. To avoid recurrence of back pain, patients should live a healthy life by following the given instructions.
- Avoid alcohol & smoking
- Adapt safe & appropriate lifting techniques
- Good posture while moving, standing, sitting & sleeping
- Maintain a regular exercise program
- Comfortable work area
- Healthy body weight
- Stress management
- Strong will-power & positive attitude
Medical Tourism for Orthopedic & Spine Surgeries
Medical tourism has emerged as the most successful healthcare sector worldwide. Growing number of international patients are now looking for a wide range of medical procedures including orthopedic & spine surgeries for two major reasons. One is the availability of well-experienced & top surgeons for treating various disorders. Second is the affordable cost of various surgeries which are on average almost one-third of the cost overseas patients would have to pay in developed countries like UK & United States. All types of surgeries in top 5 healthcare tourism destinations across the world are thus beneficial in terms of quality as well as cost. In addition to this, the compassionate & caring approach of medical professionals in these places help patients to get a smoother treatment along with proper recovery.
Spine Fusion Surgery with Travcure Medical Tourism
Travcure is a leading healthcare provider of the most beneficial spine fusion surgeries worldwide. Travcure is associated with a gigantic network of multi-specialty hospitals offering the most effective spinal fusion surgeries to international patients in countries like Turkey, Germany, United Arab Emirates (Dubai), South Korea (Seoul) & India. International patients can be assured for the best spinal treatments at extremely economical prices with Travcure. Healthcare experts at Travcure assist patients throughout their medical journey so as to provide a memorable hassle-free medical experience. Travcure also provides additional recuperation packages in exotic tourist destinations to ensure speedy recovery for patients.
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