Back injuries like a herniated disk can be very serious. Medication, rest and physical therapy are not always effective treatments. Once those options have failed, your doctor will likely recommend surgery, possibly spinal disk fusion.
Though spinal disk fusion generally is safe and effective, it is an intense procedure that can require months of recovery. Here is a brief description of this operation for people in the Twin Cities who are curious or are thinking about having surgery to fix a painful herniated disk.
To begin the operation, the surgeon makes an incision in one of three areas: just above the herniated disk in the neck or spine, to the side of it, or in the abdomen or throat to access the disk from the front. Using a bone graft that comes from the patient’s pelvis or a donor (or, occasionally, a synthetic material), the surgeon fuses the two vertebrae. They might use metal plates, rods or screws to hold the vertebrae in place while the graft heals.
That can take a while. A two-to-three day hospital stay is typical. Once you get home, it can take months for the graft to heal and fuse to your vertebrae. Your doctor may have you wear a brace during this healing period. Meanwhile, you might undergo physical therapy to learn how to sit, walk and stand with your spine properly aligned. If you work a physically demanding job, you may not be able to go back to work until you have healed.
Fortunately, if your disk injury happened at work in the first place, you may qualify for workers’ compensation to help pay your lost wages and medical bills. If you have already applied for workers’ comp and were turned down, you do not have to accept the results. A workers’ compensation attorney can explain the appeals process to you.