According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the incidence of back injuries as a result of workplace accidents is so high in the United States that it accounts for one in five workplace injuries and illnesses.
Back injuries sustained at the workplace not only cause an injured worker to lose time from work but also incur heavy medical expenses and could cause pain and suffering. Some treatment methodologies, especially those recommended in case of severe injuries, involve heavier expenses and a longer recuperation period.
What is back fusion surgery?
Back fusion surgery involves joining multiple vertebrae in the spinal region to reduce or inhibit movement. A back fusion surgery that fuses two vertebrae is a one-level spinal fusion procedure. A multi-level fusion procedure fuses three or more vertebral segments together.
The doctor could obtain the graft from the patient, a donor, or synthetically manufactured. Over the course of several months, biological processes cause the graft to heal and join the vertebrae. The joining process is similar to a fracture healing. Surgeons may use screws and other hardware to hold the vertebrae in place during the joining process.
Back fusion surgery is recommended in certain types of back injuries like:
- fractured vertebra;
- cervical disc herniation; and
- spinal deformity to help patients recover from their injuries so that they may get back to work and do the things they love to do.
However, the choice to undergo the surgery rests entirely upon the patient who should discuss the risks, benefits and alternatives with the surgeon.
What are the outcomes of the surgery?
Surgeons may not recommend multi-level back fusion surgery as a method of pain management. It may limit range of movement in the operated zone too much. However, there are certain situations in which multi-level fusion may be recommended.
In all types of back fusion surgery, success depends to a large extent on the post-operative rehabilitation methods. Rehabilitation may include administering pain management methods and making the patient undergo a customized exercise routine. Rehabilitation enhances the outcome of back fusion surgery by enabling a patient to reclaim his or her life at least partially.
In this context, it is worth mentioning that the healing process may not be complete until several months after a back fusion surgery and during this time, the patient may be advised to wear braces to limit movements in the spinal region. Any rehabilitation process that involves the patient having to perform exercises also cannot begin after at least four months have elapsed from the surgery. So, recovery from a back fusion surgery is an extremely long-drawn process.
What are the risks of back fusion?
The risks of a back fusion surgery include failure of the procedure to alleviate pain in the affected area. It may happen because the vertebrae have not fused completely. The use of screws and rods in a back fusion surgery involves a risk of these foreign particles breaking or becoming loose. Such a situation then necessitates another round of surgery.
Like any other surgical procedure, back fusion surgery also involves risk of infection at the operation site and anesthetic complications and blood clots. Damage to the blood vessels and/or nerves in the operated area can lead to loss of sensation or strength in the legs and/or loss of bladder or bowel control. Pain in the area from where the bone graft is obtained is also a potential complication of back fusion surgery.
Get Legal Assistance
Anybody who has to undergo or has underwent a fusion spine surgery after a work injury is entitled to be compensated for medical expenses and disability via Iowa’s workers’ compensation program. Walker, Billingsley & Bair offers legal help to workplace injury victims in Des Moines. Call us at (641) 792-3595 to set up a consultation.