What is posterior spinal fusion surgery?

A posterior spinal fusion is when an incision is made along the back. After the incision is made, the surgeon(s) go through several layers of tissues and muscles in order to expose the spine. The surgeon(s) place screws along the spine, which act as anchors for the rods and bone grafts.

What is anterior spinal fusion surgery?

Anterior spinal fusion surgery is when the surgeon has to approach the spine from the front. This may require a removal of a rib. The patient may also have a chest tube. 

What is bone grafting?

Bone grafting is used to help fuse the spine in the correct position. The source for the bone graft is usually parts of the spine that were removed during the surgery.

What does fusion of the spine mean?

The fusion is when the bone heals to bone. The fusion keeps the parts of the spine in a corrected position. The part of the spine that is fused will no longer bend.  When the fusion is done in the thoracic (chest) section, there is no significant change in flexibility since that region of the spine naturally has little range of motion. If the fusion extends into the lumbar region, there will be some change in your child’s flexibility but should not affect daily activity.

What are the implants made of and how long will they stay in?

The implants are made of titanium and cobalt chromium and will not be removed. Many parents ask if it is safe for their child to go through a metal detector or an MRI. The implants are safe and your child will be able to have an MRI or walk through a metal detector.

What is spinal cord monitoring?

This is when electrodes are placed on your child after they are asleep. These electrodes monitor the brain’s ability to send and receive messages from the spinal cord and nerves. This test is done and monitored by a professional who is trained to administer and interpret this monitoring. This monitoring significantly lowers the risk of neurological injury during surgery.

Length of Hospital Stay

Our AIS patient average length of stay is 3½ days. These patients are on a rapid recovery protocol.  Research has shown the early mobilization after a posterior spinal fusion provides a patient with the ability to get back to being a kid quickly.

Our patients sit up on the edge of the bed on the same evening as their surgery. On post-op Day 1, your child will work with physical therapy (PT) twice a day. On post-op Day 2, your child will work with PT three times a day, which will continue until they are discharged home. Patients and parents will learn more about what to expect during PT sessions when they attend their pre-operative class and work with a physical therapist.

 Our neuromuscular patients recovery and length of stay are unique to each patient. Our Anterior spinal fusion patients length or stay can also be unique to each patient. Your specialist will discuss the plan of care for your child.

Anticipated Recovery Time

Patients will see their surgeon(s) approximately two or three weeks after surgery. Some patients are ready to attend school for half-days as soon as two weeks after surgery. Most patients are able to return to school within four weeks.

For the first six months after surgery, patients will be walking only. Their surgeon will determine if they are able to increase their activity after their six-month post-operative appointment.

Driving is prohibited for 6 to 8 weeks after your child’s surgery.