Scolioisis spinal fusion surgery: what is it really like?

Hello everyone,

I talk a lot about scoliosis surgery and recovery here on my blog, but I sometimes forget that not everyone is aware what the surgery entails. So, with that in mind I wanted to talk about what a spinal fusion is and what the process of spinal fusion involves.
Spinal fusion surgery entails ….
- A surgeon dissects 5 layers of spinal muscles, surrounding ligaments and tendons, and the spine's entire posterior joint system.

- 3 inch screws and hooks are inserted on both sides of the spine on all required levels.

- Solid metal rods are run through the hooks on both sides of the spine along the entire length of the curve.


A spinal fusion surgery is designed to stop the motion at a painful vertebral segment, which in turn should decrease pain generated from the joint.

There are many approaches to lumbar spinal fusion surgery, and all involve the following process: 

- Adding bone graft to a segment of the spine.
- Set up a biological response that causes the bone graft to grow between the two vertebral elements to create a bone fusion. 
- The bone fusion: which results in one fixed bone replacing a mobile joint - stops the motion at that joint segment. 


Spinal fusion surgery involves the joining two or more vertebrae into one singular structure. The goal is to stop movement and progression, and to hold the spine in the desired position. Once the vertebrates are fused movement of the spine is reduced, leading to a decrease in the patients flexibility. 

There are two possible ways in which a spinal fusion surgery can be done - 

- Anterior lumbar interbody fusion - the surgeon goes in through your belly.
- Posterior fusion - surgeon goes in through the centre of the back. 

The surgeon decides which method is best for you based on the angle and position of the curve/ curves.

The surgeon can use screws, rods, or pieces of bone (called graft) from another part of your body to connect the disks and keep them from moving. A bone graft that comes from your body is usually taken from your hip or pelvis. Bone from another person is called a donor graft. Some surgeons place a substance called bone morphogenetic protein into the spine instead. It helps to stimulate bone growth.



Fusion surgery complications that can occur -

- Bleeding (blood transfusion)
- Blood clots
- Infections of the wound
- Nerve damage, ranging from numbness to paralysis (although very rare)


After the surgery, the recovery process can take anything from 6 - 12 months for the metal work to fully fuse with the spine.
The first 6 months are the most important, it is vital that you protect your back until the fusion has taken place. In the first 6 months you aren't allow to bend, lift or participate in contact sports.


I've personally had a very positive experience with spinal fusion surgery. But, it is risky and the choice to have the surgery is a very personal one. Without sounding too dramatic, spinal fusion surgery changed my life, and the way I go about everyday tasks. So before having this surgery it is extremely important that you weigh up both the pros and cons, and whether surgery is the best option for you.


Thank you so much for reading, I hope this has helped increase your understanding on scoliosis surgery.

Sadie xoxo

If you would like to talk to me about your own experiences with scoliosis or even just to say hi, please feel free to email me - lookingbacksadierawson@gmail.com










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