Lumbar Spinal Fusion Surgery

Lumbar Spinal Fusion

Table of Contents

Lumbar Spinal Fusion
Most Common Causes of Lumbar Back Pain
Your Visit With The Surgeon
Getting Yourself Ready For Surgery
Understanding Back Precautions
Making Arrangements For Surgery
Your Hospital Visit
Lumbar Spinal Fusion Surgery
Recovery At Home
When To Call Your Surgeon
Long Term Care For Your Back

More Information:

Lumbar Spine Structure and Function

A spinal fusion involves placing a bone graft between two or more vertebrae.  There are many surgical approaches and ways to fuse the spine, but they all involved placing a bone graft between the vertebrae. The bone can come from the patient (autograft) or from a bone bank (allograft). Most fusions use autografts. If the bone is taken from the patient, the bone is harvested during surgery and just before the fusion. The spine may be approached from the front (anterior approach) or from the back (posterior approach). Lumbar fusion is usually approached from the back.

The goal of fusion surgery is to form a solid union between two vertebrae and may be done with or without using hardware, called instrumentation. The hardware holds the vertebrae together so the graft can heal. Two types of spinal fusion include:

Interbody fusion interbody fusion – a bone graft is placed between the vertebrae after the disk has been removed. During the healing process the bone graft and the vertebrae join together. This creates a solid piece of bone between the vertebrae. This type of fusion requires an incision in the abdomen.


Posterior Fusionposterior fusion – a bone graft is placed on the back side of the vertebrae. During the healing process the bone graft and the vertebrae join together. This creates a solid piece of bone between the vertebrae. This type of fusion requires an incision in the back.


Both types of fusion do the same thing. The vertebrae grow together (fuse) into one bone. The purpose of spinal fusion is to stop the motion (immobilize) of the vertebrae. The goal of surgery is to relieve your pain and stop your symptoms from getting worse.

Hardware for back fusionMost of the time, a spinal fusion requires some type of “internal fixation” to help immobilize the spinal segment while thevertebrae fuse. Internal fixation can be done with metal plates and screws which hold the bones in place until the fusion is formed. Complete fusion usually takes about 4 to 6 months. However, the plates and screws are not removed, and stay in your back for life. Your surgeon will tell you more about using plates and screws with your fusion.

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