You will be asleep and feel no pain (general anesthesia).
- On your back or neck over the spine. You will be lying face down. Muscles and tissue will be separated to expose the spine.
- On your side, if you are having surgery on your lower back. The surgeon will use tools called retractors to gently separate, hold the soft tissues and blood vessels apart, and have room to work.
- With a cut on the front of the neck, toward the side.
The surgeon will use a graft (such as bone) to hold (or fuse) the bones together permanently. There are several ways of fusing vertebrae together:
- Strips of bone graft material may be placed over the back part of the spine.
- Bone graft material may be placed between the vertebrae.
- Special cages may be placed between the vertebrae. These cages are packed with bone graft material.
The surgeon may get the bone graft from different places:
- From another part of your body (usually around your pelvic bone). This is called an autograft. Your surgeon will make a small cut over your hip and remove some bone from the back of the rim of the pelvis.
- From a bone bank. This is called an allograft.
- A synthetic bone substitute can also be used.
The vertebrae may also fixed together with rods, screws, plates, or cages. They are used to keep the vertebrae from moving until the bone grafts are fully healed.
Surgery can take 3 to 4 hours.