Posterior Lumbar Fusion (PLF) Surgery
What is Posterior Lumbar Fusion Surgery
Posterior lumbar fusion surgery is a surgical procedure in which the back part of the lumbar spine is fused from the back. The surgeon makes an incision in the lower back, through the muscles. It is common to perform decompression surgery combined with the PLF. A bone graft is placed along the edges of the back part of the spine. Often, pedicle screws are placed into the vertebral bodies and connected with rods. This helps to stabilize the spine.
Conditions Treated with Lumbar Fusion Surgery
What to Expect Before the Lumbar Fusion Surgery
Once you have decided to have surgery, the following events take place:
- A medical examination.
- Chest X-ray, EKG and blood work.
- You may be asked to have a neurological or psychological examination.
- If taking aspirin or anti-inflammatory medications daily, stop these medications at least one week before the lumbar fusion surgery.
- If you take prescription medications or other drugs, including herbals, ask your doctor how soon you should stop taking these before the lumbar fusion surgery.
- Do not have anything to eat or drink for 6 to 8 hours before surgery.
- You will check into the hospital the morning of surgery.
- Prior to the lumbar fusion surgery, you will be asked to sign permits for surgery, anesthesia, blood and blood products.
What to Expect During the Lumbar Fusion Surgery
- An incision is made in the low back area.
- Fluoroscopy (live X-ray) is used to determine the correct level(s) to be operated.
- Bone graft is placed along both sides of the back part of the spine.
- Pedicle screws may be placed in the vertebrae above and below the level to be fused.
- The screws are connected with rods.
- Surgery takes approximately 1-3 hours.
What to Expect After the Lumbar Fusion Surgery
- You will be in the recovery room from 1 to 1½ hours.
- The surgeon will contact your family while you are in recovery.
- After going to a hospital room, you will be able to use a PCA pump to get medication for pain control. This machine controls the amount of medication that can be received.
- Staff will usually get you out of bed the same day as the surgery.
- The hospital stay is usually 1-3 days.
- A brace or corset is prescribed to restrict bending and promote healing of the fused area.
- You will be given any needed prescriptions and discharge instructions.
- A set of exercises that you can do at home will be provided.
- You will be able to ride in a car or plane upon leaving the hospital.
- It is important to avoid twisting and bending backward.
- Physical therapy is usually initiated after the first office visit with your doctor following surgery.
Recovery from lumbar fusion surgery varies greatly among patients and is dependent on the extent of the surgery as well as the age and health of the individual. Return to work also varies greatly among patients and is related to overall health and the type of work you do. It is important to note that back pain is seldom completely eliminated – the objective with fusion surgery is to reduce pain.