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Spinal Fusion/ROSA Spine FAQ

Answers to frequently asked questions about spinal fusion.

What is a lumbar spinal fusion?

A spinal fusion is a surgical procedure used to correct problems with the vertebrae resulting from injury, weakness, or instability that can cause back or leg pain. When a patient is having back pain, their physician may order diagnostic imaging like X-ray or MRI to discover the source of their pain and find conditions such as degenerative disc disease, spinal stenosis, or a fracture. Spinal fusion joins the vertebrae that are causing pain together so they heal into a single, solid bone. This eliminates the motion between the spinal bones that may be causing pain by impacting nerves, ligaments, or muscles in unnatural ways.

Who is a good candidate for a spinal fusion?

A good candidate for a spinal fusion is a patient with severe back and/ or leg pain for which there is instability in the lumbar spine or evidence of severe degeneration. Being a nonsmoker or someone who is quitting smoking, with a BMI of less than 40 and who is willing to follow the pre- and postoperative directions of their surgeon may give a greater likelihood of a successful outcome. It is important for patients to have tried nonsurgical options, such as physical therapy and injections, to relieve their back pain, without success.

How long does it take to recover after a spinal fusion?

Recovery from spinal fusion, like any spine surgery, takes some time to heal. While the pain may diminish and your comfort increase more quickly, your spine needs time to allow full recovery and become completely solid. Post-surgery rehabilitation may be necessary. It teaches you how to move without twisting the spine, including how to sit, stand, and walk until you’re fully recovered. The initial recovery process usually takes about 3 months. You may need time off work or a modification of your work environment.

It is usually around 6-8 months before the fusion is completely solid, but can be up to a year. Smoking and some medications may delay this process. While you’re healing, you can do light activity such as walking, light cleaning, or preparing food, and slowly increase your activity level as you regain strength, according to your doctor’s orders. Until you are completely recovered, avoid strenuous activity or activities that highly engage the spine such as lifting objects, strenuous exercise, golfing, jogging, or dancing.

What can help to achieve a successful outcome post- spinal fusion?

A healthy lifestyle will help the patient tremendously. Being at a healthy weight can help to relieve pressure on the spine. Smoking cessation will improve the chance of a successful fusion and results in a healthier spine. Blood sugar control is necessary if the patient is diabetic. It’s also important the patient follows their doctor’s post-surgical and recovery instructions, as each recovery is different.

What is ROSA Spine and how does it assist in spinal fusion?

ROSA Spine is a minimally invasive surgical tool used for spinal fusion. In traditional minimally invasive surgeries, the surgeon would interpret 3D images of the spine in real time, based on imaging taken at multiple intervals during the procedure. ROSA Spine allows the surgeon to preplan the specific “path” for procedures and program the tool to follow those paths exactly. The technology acts like a GPS, allowing the surgeon to map the best path prior to beginning surgery, giving them a plan to follow. This allows for increased control and precision, which may lead to more accurate procedures. Although the overall recovery time for a spinal fusion doesn’t change whether it’s done minimally invasively or not, as you can’t rush the bone’s healing process, minimally invasive surgery can get you out of the hospital and back to the comfort of your own home to heal more quickly than traditional surgical methods.

Content Updated: June 17, 2016

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