Lumbar Spinal Fusion Surgery

Understanding Lumbar Spinal Fusion Surgery, Risks and Recovery

Lumbar Spinal Fusion Surgery in Birmingham and Hoover, Alabama

As people age, their bodies undergo a lot of wear and tear, and the back is one of the areas where many experience pain. Nearly 8 percent of all adults in the United States experience persistent or chronic back pain that affects their daily lives. Lumbar spinal fusion is a type of surgery that is used to stabilize the spine and reduce pain. Located in Hoover and Birmingham-Grandview and serving central Alabama, Southlake Orthopaedics is a multi-specialty orthopedic practice offering comprehensive orthopedic services including spinal surgery. Find more information about lumbar spinal fusion below.

What Is Lumbar Spinal Fusion Surgery?

Lumbar spinal fusion is a type of surgery in which two or more bones in the back will be connected, or fused, to prevent them from moving and causing pain. The procedure involves placing a bone or bone-like material in the area between the two bones to stop their movement and the stretching of surrounding nerves and muscles. The surgeon may use metal plates, rods, or screws to hold the bolds together as they heal and fuse. The goals of lumbar spinal fusion surgery include:

  • Stabilizing the structure of the back
  • Reshaping the spine
  • Treating symptoms such as pain, numbness, and weakness


Since spinal fusion surgery involves fusing the bones together, patients may experience slightly limited spinal flexibility. Usually, most patients won’t have a noticeable decrease in range of motion.

Conditions That Can Be Treated With Lumbar Spinal Fusion Surgery

Symptoms like pain, weakness, and numbness are common reasons for patients to undergo spinal fusion surgery. These symptoms can be caused by many different conditions that affect the vertebrae, joints, or soft tissues that spinal fusion is used to treat, including:

  • Congenital spine conditions
  • Herniated disks
  • Infections
  • Tumors
  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Pinched nerves in your neck or lower back
  • Scoliosis
  • Spondylolisthesis
  • Spondylosis
  • Spinal stenosis
  • Spine fractures and injuries


Your surgeon will help you weigh the costs and benefits of spinal surgery for your condition and will typically only perform it when other less invasive methods have failed to help.

What to Expect During the Procedure

Once your surgeon has determined lumbar spinal fusion to be the best treatment option for you, your surgery will be scheduled. On the day of the surgery, you’ll meet with the medical team to discuss the details of the procedure, get prepped by the surgical team, and be put to sleep with anesthesia. The process for the surgery will depend on a few things:

Incision Approach and Type

Depending on the affected area of the spine, your surgeon may access it from your back (posterior), front (anterior) or side (lateral). Spinal fusions can either be done through open surgery and larger incisions, or a minimally invasive method with a smaller incision and faster healing time. Each method has advantages and the one chosen for your surgery will depend on your condition and location of the problem.


The material used to fuse the bones can either be a real bone graft from the patient or a donor, or a man-made material. The surgeon may also use metal hardware for additional stability.

Additional Procedures

If your spinal condition is causing more than one problem, your surgeon may opt to fix them in one surgery to prevent you from having to go through two. These other procedures can include a laminectomy, discectomy, or foraminotomy.

Overall, the fusion process involves the surgeon making their incision in the best place to access the affected area, placing the bone graft between the affected bones so they can fuse together, and closing the incision with staples or sutures.

Doctor explaining lumbar anatomy to patient with back pain

Lumbar Spinal Fusion Surgery Risks

Lumbar Spinal fusion surgery does have its risks, as with any surgery. Your surgeon will discuss the risks and benefits of the procedure with you and any potential complications that can occur. These include:

  • Infection
  • Bleeding
  • Pain at the graft site
  • Recurring symptoms
  • Pseudarthrosis (bones not fusing properly)
  • Reduced movement ability


Nerve damage, blood clots, and breathing problems are less common side effects of surgery. If you have these more serious side effects or symptoms, contact your doctor immediately or go to the nearest emergency room.

Lumbar Spinal Fusion Surgery Recovery

The recovery from lumbar spinal fusion surgery is gradual, not instant. Once the surgery is finished, patients are taken to a recovery room and are usually kept in the hospital for a few days for monitoring, although minimally invasive surgery can mean a shorter stay. Patients may experience some pain but may be prescribed short-term pain medications for some relief.

The fusion will take time to fully heal, as long as several months, and you should start with light activity only. However, you shouldn’t experience pain during the whole healing process and your symptoms and activity level will slowly improve. You may also be prescribed physical therapy or rehabilitation to help you rebuild your strength and adjust to your fused back. Once your fusion has healed, you may experience pain relief, lessened symptoms, and an increased quality of life. Most people recover fully, although it’s common for people to have reduced flexibility in their back because the fusion prevents the bones from moving as they did before.

Why Choose Southlake Orthopaedics for Lumbar Spinal Fusion Surgery?

At Southlake Orthopaedics, we provide personalized and compassionate care for every patient, using the most advanced medical technology available. We specialize in orthopedics, and our medical team includes expertise in every orthopedic specialty. With locations in Hoover and Birmingham-Grandview, we are conveniently located for patients in central Alabama.

Find Advanced Surgical Care for Spine Conditions and Injuries at Southlake Orthopaedics

If chronic back pain or numbness is impacting your daily life, don’t live your life in pain. The board-certified physicians at Southlake Orthopaedics are here to provide comprehensive services in multiple specialties in central Alabama. Contact us today to learn more about how advanced spinal care like lumbar spinal fusion can get you back to less pain and more living.