A spinal fusion procedure can help patients find relief from a number of different back-related ailments. The goal of the procedure is to fuse two vertebrae together to stabilize the spine location and avoid shifting or segment mobility. In some cases, the spinal condition is more severe, and a more in-depth fusion procedure is needed. Instead of fusing the vertebrae at one location, fusion may occur at two or three locations. This is known as multi-level spinal fusion.
Dr. Chang has performed countless multi-level spinal fusion operations, and he’d be happy to provide you with a consultation if you’re dealing with spine pain. Surgery is rarely the first step, but if conservative care techniques fail to provide relief, he’ll set you on the path to surgery and answer any questions you might have along the way. Here’s a closer look at who might benefit from multi-level spinal fusion, and how to procedure is performed.
Who Would Benefit From Multi-Level Spinal Fusion
As we mentioned above, multi-level spinal fusion is designed to stabilize the spine and prevent painful movement among spinal segments, so patients with certain degenerative or spinal alignment conditions may have the most to gain from a multi-level fusion operation. Patients with the following conditions may be ideal candidates for multi-level spinal fusion:
- Scoliosis, Kyphosis or Lordosis
- Degenerative disc disease
- Failed back surgery syndrome
- Segmental instability
- Spinal fractures
Aside from having one of the above conditions, the ideal candidate for multi-level spinal fusion surgery will be at a healthy weight, not have any other comorbidities like diabetes or high blood pressure, and a desire to fully commit to a rehab plan.
Performing The Operation
Multi-level spinal fusion surgery can be completed in a couple different ways. The main difference in the two procedures is how the surgeon approaches the spinal segment.
Posterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion – In this procedure, the surgeon accesses the spine through small openings made in the patient’s back. Screws and other hardware are inserted to stabilize the spine and fuse the vertebrae together.
Anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion – Using the anterior approach, the surgeon will access the spine using tools and small openings made on the front of a person’s body and using similar hardware to complete the procedure.
As you could probably guess, the recovery following a fusion operation at multiple levels takes longer than a single-level fusion. Even so, recovery can occur in as little as 6-8 weeks for some patients, while others recovering from severe curvature disorder corrections may need six months to reach maximum recovery. The good news is that the recovery and restrictions for a patient who has undergone a multi-level spinal fusion procedure are essentially the same as for patients recovering from a single-level operation, with the only real exception being that an external brace is typically required following a multi-level correction, whereas it may not be necessary for single-level fusions.
Your surgeon will walk you through your postoperative restrictions, but many patients will be asked to limit their bending, twisting and lifting for the first six weeks while also progressing through appropriate physical therapy and stretching exercises. More aggressive physical and strength training exercises are allowed once approved by the surgeon, typically at least 6-8 weeks post-op.
For more information about multi-level spinal fusion, or to talk to a back specialist about your spine discomfort, reach out to Dr. Chang’s office today.