Spinal fusion helps relieve pain associated with movement of the vertebrae in your spine. Fusing two or more vertebrae together into a single structure stops movement between the bones that creates pain in nearby nerves, ligaments, and muscles. Spine specialist and orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Duc Nguyen in Redwood City, California, has the experience and skill necessary for this complex surgery. Contact his office to find out if this is the right step for your back pain, or make an appointment using the online booking agent.

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What issues does a spinal fusion address?

When you’ve exhausted non-surgical pain relief options and imaging tests, such as CT scans and MRIs, reveal the source of your pain, Dr. Nguyen may recommend spinal fusion. This surgery can relieve pain symptoms related to:

  • Spondylolisthesis
  • Spinal stenosis
  • Fracture
  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Scoliosis

You may also consider spinal fusion if you’ve had an infection or tumor that’s compromised the discs and soft tissue of your back and spine. Spinal fusion is usually used to treat back pain that’s related to movement.

What is involved in spinal fusion surgery?

Dr. Nguyen performs a spinal fusion technique known OLIF, or oblique lumbar interbody fusion. It requires smaller incisions than other methods of spinal fusion surgery.

He makes an incision in the side of your abdomen and inserts a small camera, which gives him computer guidance to move through soft tissue to reach the lumbar spine. He removes damaged vertebrae and discs and replaces them with a bone graft or another spacer to maintain the space between the bones. If necessary, Dr. Nguyen implants screws, rods, or plates to provide additional support for the fused vertebrae. He closes the incision with stitches and sends you to the recovery room.

What are the benefits of OLIF?

An OLIF makes recovery easier because fewer muscles must be cut to access the lumbar vertebrae. This means less healing time and that you’ll develop less scar tissue that impedes return to full function. When your muscle has been cut, they require a lot of therapy to resume full strength and function. The incision is relatively small, which further contributes to faster recovery. The side abdominal approach also gives Dr. Nguyen easier access to all the lumbar vertebrae.

How long does it take to recover from spinal fusion?

It can take several months and up to a year to fully recover from spinal fusion. It takes some time for the pain to resolve and the bones to grow into a solid unit. Postoperative physical therapy and modifications to your daily activity—such as avoiding heavy lifting and twisting—are necessary parts of your rehabilitation. Fusion does take away some of your spinal flexibility but may help to resolve pain in the process.