Choosing to undergo a lumbar fusion is a big decision, although it’s often one that results in increased quality of life. A lumbar fusion involves fusing together vertebrae in the lumbar spine in order to reduce pain.
Lumbar Fusion: An Overview
If you place your hands on your lower back, just above your hips, you’ll feel an area where the spine curves inward. This is your lumbar spine. A healthy lumbar spine has a smooth natural curve, and has soft spinal discs that cushion vertebrae in order to prevent friction, nerve damage, and pain.
Unfortunately, many people experience deterioration or injury of the lumbar spine. This can make movement painful as discs wear down and nerves become exposed or even damaged. A lumbar fusion solves this problem by fusing together lumbar vertebrae in order to prevent motion, thus preventing pain and potential nerve damage.
There are a few ways for a lumbar fusion to be carried out, and your surgeon will choose the best way depending on your condition. Typically, in order to fuse the vertebrae together, your surgeon will attach a bone graft in order to promote new bone to grow between the vertebrae. Although this slightly reduces range of motion, many people find a lumbar fusion to be a very effective solution to back pain.
Who Needs a Lumbar Fusion?
There are a handful of conditions that could make a lumbar fusion necessary, including spinal conditions such as degenerative disc disease, spondylolisthesis, and scoliosis. Injury, infections, or tumors that damage the spine can also make a lumbar fusion necessary. Sometimes it’s possible to treat the issues that would lead to a lumbar fusion if you catch them early enough. Your doctor will help you decide if there are other treatments that you can try first, or if you should have a lumbar fusion.
What to Expect After a Lumbar Fusion.
Lumbar fusions have high success rates, with approximately 80% of patients reporting that they are happy with the results of the procedure. Lumbar fusions can reduce pain by up to 70%, so there’s a very good chance that you’ll be glad you underwent the procedure.
Although lumbar fusions are typically successful at reducing pain in the long run, it does take a while to heal from a lumbar fusion. Although your personal recovery time will depend on your overall health, you can typically expect to take between three and six months to heal from a lumbar fusion. For much of this time, you will likely need to keep activity level to a minimum in order to keep your fusion stabilized. This means no lifting, bending, or twisting.
During the beginning of your healing process, you may need to wear a brace to immobilize the area. As your recovery progresses, you’ll eventually want to consider enrolling in physical therapy in order to restore strength and range of motion.
As with any surgery, there are a few complications to watch out for after a lumbar fusion. Immediately after the surgery, you’ll want to pay attention for signs of infection or blood clots. You’ll also want to talk to your doctor about strategies for managing pain after the surgery. Other complications involve potential nerve damage or insufficient bone growth in the fused area. Talk to your doctor immediately if you think you might have any of these complications.
Undergoing a lumbar fusion will have a big impact on your ability to participate in daily activities, and it’s important to ensure that you’re financially protected as you heal from your procedure. If you’re considering undergoing lumbar fusion or another medical procedure, please contact us. We at Meshbesher Law Firm are here to help you with all your worker’s compensation or personal injury questions.