Recuperating after bulging disc fusion surgery

Many patients have questions about the recovery time after fusion surgery to treat a bulging disc. Unfortunately, there is no short answer for how long recovery will take because recovery time is directly dependent of the type of fusion surgery a patient receives.

There are two types of fusion surgery for bulging disc pain: traditional open back surgery and minimally invasive stabilization surgery. Because of the highly invasive nature of traditional open back fusion, patients must endure an extended recovery time, usually spending the first few days of the recovery in the hospital. However, Laser Spine Institute offers a safer and effective alternative with a shorter recovery time^ to traditional open back surgery with our minimally invasive stabilization surgery.

As you research both of these options for your spinal fusion, we encourage you to reach out to our Care Team with any questions. We are here to help you learn about your treatment options so you can make the best decision for your needs.

What to expect after traditional open back fusion to treat a bulging disc

Traditional open back fusion is a highly invasive procedure that begins with a large incision down the back. In the process of accessing the spine, the muscles surrounding the spine are cut and torn, which leads to an extended recovery time while patients wait for those muscles to heal.

After the surgery is over, the patient is required to stay in the hospital for two or three days so the doctors can monitor the patient’s circulation and help prevent infections. The highly invasive nature of the surgery allows for increased risk of too much blood loss and infection. Once the patient is released from the hospital, the total recovery time is about six months, with many patients unable to return to daily activities for a full year after surgery.

Here are just a few issues patients commonly face immediately following a traditional open back fusion for bulging disc pain:

  • Pain management — intravenous medication at first, switching to oral as the pain diminishes
  • Nourishment — only ice chips or liquid for the first 24 to 36 hours, until the stomach is able to handle solid food
  • Activity — although you will be immobilized for the most part, it is important to try to walk again as soon as possible
  • Physical therapy — may begin at the hospital, or you may be sent to a rehabilitation center to begin recuperation
  • The return home — continued pain management using medicine and ice; take short walks; follow your physician’s instructions for permitted activity

A safer, more effective alternative to traditional open back fusion surgery

At Laser Spine Institute, our minimally invasive stabilization surgery is a safer, more effective alternative to traditional open back fusion. Instead of requiring a large incision in the back, our surgeons can access the spine through a small incision of about 1-inch, which allows the muscles and soft tissue surrounding the spine to be left undisturbed. Once the spine is accessed, the bulging disc will be removed, which will free the impacted nerve root in the spinal canal and help alleviate your chronic pain. An implant will then be inserted into the now-empty disc space to help stabilize the spine and prevent future deterioration in that area.

Because of the minimally invasive nature of our stabilization procedures, our surgery is performed in an outpatient setting. Many of our patients are up and walking within hours after surgery.

For more information about our minimally invasive stabilization surgery and other treatment options for bulging discs, please contact our Care Team. We are here to guide you through your journey to wellness.

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