Posterior Cervical Laminectomy & Fusion
If you suffer from scoliosis, kyphosis or spondyliosthesis, your surgeon may recommend you have a posterior spinal fusion procedure. The goal of this type of surgery is to create a balance in the spine, both in the sagittal (side) and coronal (front) planes. In doing so, your head will be balanced over your hips when viewed from the front and side, meaning your spine is once again in perfect alignment. This will reduce the pressure on your back, relieve pain in the legs and back, decrease the sensation of numbness or weakness and improve motor control and coordination.
What happens during the procedure?
During a posterior spinal fusion your surgeon will make a single incision along the midline of the back. This will provide direct access to the spine where the surgeon can remove any bone spurs, cysts or other material that is pressing on the nerves. Once this is completed, a bone graft will be placed along the back of the spine so two vertebrae can grow together, fusing as one. To keep the area immobilized during the fusion process, your surgeon may use a series of metal rods and screws or require you to wear a support brace.
The procedure can last two or more hours. The length depends on the number of discs that are being operated on and the severity of the pressure being placed on the nerves.
The purpose of this surgery is to stabilize the spine and relieve leg/back pain, numbness, weakness, or lack of coordination and motor control caused by pressure on the nerves. The success rate of relieving leg pain is very high.
What can I expect after posterior spinal fusion?
In most cases you will be discharged three to five days after the procedure. You will need to limit your activities after surgery and your doctor will review your post care regimen with you. It will take you some time to recover from the surgery and feel strong again. It can take up to one to two years before you’ll be your old self again.
The best form of rehabilitation after posterior spinal fusion is to walk. Again, your doctor will go over the precise exercise and rehabilitation regimen you should undertake, which will be based on your unique case.
As you recover you should notice a dramatic, marked reduction in back and leg pain. As your nerves heal, you may have occasional tingling or a warm feeling in your legs. This is normal. Pain due to the actual incision should subside in two to three weeks.
Posterior spinal fusion does have risks, including the possibility that the fusion will not heal properly or that a nerve root may be damaged. A dural tear can also form, which allows spinal fluid to leak. You may be required to get bed rest for a few days if this is the case. Infections and blood blots are also possible, but all of these complications are very rare in cases involving posterior spinal fusion.