What happens during lumbar spinal fusion surgery?

The goal of lumbar spinal fusion surgery is to help bone grafts grow between the vertebrae.

Lumbar spinal fusion surgery is a surgery to join two or more spinal bones—vertebrae—so that they eventually grow into one solid bone. During surgery:

  • An anesthesiologist will put you to sleep so you will not feel or remember the surgery. You will also be given antibiotics to help prevent infection.
  • You will be placed on your stomach so the surgery can be done from your back, at or near your spine.
  • After making an incision (cut) in your skin and spine, the surgeon will implant fixation devices to hold the vertebrae in the correct position. These devices (called "hardware") include spacers in the disk space between the bones, and a system of metal (titanium) screws and rods on the back of the bones.
  • If spinal nerves are pinched by disk material, overgrown joints, or bone spurs, the surgeon will remove that material to ensure that the nerves have plenty of space.
  • The surgeon will then pack bone chips between and around the abnormal vertebrae so that over time they will fuse (grow together) into one solid piece of bone.
  • The incision will be closed with stitches or staples.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.