When a back injury fails to heal with conservative therapy, your doctor may recommend spinal fusion surgery. This procedure can help reduce pain and restore mobility if you have a herniated disc or severe spinal arthritis.
Learn more about what to expect if you are facing spinal fusion surgery.
During the surgery
Spinal fusion involves an incision in the affected area, either through the abdomen or back depending on the type of injury and other factors. You will receive general anesthesia during the procedure. The surgeon will fuse the injured discs using a bone graft, either from your own body or with donor-provided bone. He or she may also install metal plates, screws or rods to help hold the spine in place as it heals.
The recovery process
You should expect to stay in the hospital for several days after spinal fusion. Most patients need at least a few months to return to their normal activities. During that time, you may need to wear a brace. Your doctor will likely prescribe physical therapy to help strengthen your spine, improve mobility and promote healing.
Risks and complications
While most people have positive outcomes from spinal fusion surgery, some patients experience complications. These may include pain at the surgical site, nerve or blood vessel injury, blood clots or uncontrolled bleeding, wound healing problems, or infection.
If you need spinal fusion surgery after a back injury at work, you can file a North Carolina workers’ compensation claim to cover medical expenses, disability and other related costs. However, your injury needs to be reported using a specific claim form filed with the NC Industrial Commission. An attorney can help with this to properly preserve your right to collect benefits.