Preparing for Spinal Fusion Surgery:

What You Need to Know

For Appointents: Call 949-546-7500

‘le Steven C. Dennis, MD, takes every potential treatment route to help his patients avoid surgery whenever possible, sometimes an inevitable spinal surgery is the best option for pain relief and improving quality of life. At his practice in Newport Beach, California, Dr. Dennis is a skilled orthopedic surgeon who focuses on providing state-of-the-art treatments for all types of spinal pain, symptoms, degenerative conditions, and back injuries.

If you’re considering spinal fusion surgery to improve your health and wellness, here’s what you need to know to help you prepare for the procedure. ?

Understand the procedure to prepare mentally

Spinal fusion permanently connects two or more vertebrae together so they can no longer move individually. Depending on your specific spinal issues, there may be a need to fuse vertebrae in your upper (cervical) spine or lower (lumbar) spine. Fusing specific vertebrae can help relieve pain at the source of the problem or injury and create more stability.

During spinal fusion surgery, you’re under anesthesia so you won’t feel pain or be aware of what’s happening. Depending on the location of the vertebrae intended to be fused, an incision in one or more of three locations may be necessary:

  • Your neck or back, directly over your spine
  • On either side of your spine
  • Through the throat or abdomen to access your spine from the front

Dr. Dennis explains which location to be used for your spinal fusion surgery so you know what to expect beforehand.

Spinal fusion surgery requires a bone graft

Typically, spinal fusion surgery uses bone from a donor or from your own body, along with metal plates, screws, or rods that hold the vertebrae together while the bone heals. If the bone is taken from your body, it’s usually from your pelvic bone, and a small incision there will be needed.

To fuse your vertebrae together permanently, the bone graft is inserted between the vertebrae and then the metal hardware is inserted and attached before closing the incision. As an alternative to the bone graft, synthetic materials may also be an option.

Once the surgery is complete, you’ll most likely be in the hospital a couple of days. It may take a few months for your bones to completely heal, during which time, you may need to wear a brace to keep your spine properly aligned.

Expect to take some time off from work and your usual activities as you rest and recuperate. Physical therapy and exercises may be part of your recovery process as well.

Prepare your body physically before spinal fusion surgery

Once you understand all that is entailed to perform your specific spinal fusion surgery, it is also a good idea to prepare yourself physically. Depending on your overall health and any preexisting medical conditions, you may need to ensure that conditions like high blood pressure or diabetes are under control before you undergo back surgery.

If you take medications that may increase the amount of blood you lose during surgery, you may need to stop taking those 10-14 days ahead of time to avoid complications.

Your body’s ability to heal after spinal fusion surgery is essential to the success of the procedure. If you have a condition that prevents you from healing properly, you need to address these issues first. Factors that may inhibit your ability to heal include:

  • Osteoporosis
  • Smoking
  • Poor nutrition
  • Previous spine surgeries
  • Chemotherapy

Quit smoking

Cigarette smoking and pseudoarthrosis  lack of healing of the bone graft are closely linked because nicotine inhibits bone growth. Since new bone growth is vital to healing your spine after surgery, you need to quit smoking to minimize your risk of failed spinal fusion surgery. At the very least, you should commit to not smoking for a minimum of three months after spinal fusion surgery  the most crucial time for optimal bone healing to take place. 

Get enough exercise

It’s understandable that you’re considering spinal fusion surgery because you’re in too much pain to move freely or exercise at the level you’d like. However, it’s important to remain as active as you can before surgery, even if it’s simply taking a short walk each day. Staying active can enhance healing.

Dr. Dennis may recommend physical therapy before surgery so you can improve strength, stamina, and flexibility prior to the procedure.

Prepare your home and ask for help

After spinal fusion surgery, you’re going to need some help getting around the first few days after you return home. Prepare your home so you can rest comfortably or get around easily, especially if you’re wearing a back brace. Ask a friend or family member to stay with you to assist in your daily activities, like getting dressed or cooking meals.

While it’s not an easy procedure, spinal fusion surgery can provide long-term pain relief and restore mobility that leads to an improved quality of life.

If you suffer from back pain, call Dr. Dennis Newport Beach, California, office to schedule a spinal fusion surgery consultation, or book an appointment online.


Steven C. Dennis, MD

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Steven C. Dennis, MD

Same Day Appointments are Available.

Get in Touch

Phone: 949-546-7500

Fax: 949-644-9330

Office Hours

1501 Westcliff Dr., Suite 325 Newport Beach, CA 92660