After someone has suffered a spinal cord injury, it is important to stabilize the bones of the spine to prevent further injury. Sometimes just wearing a brace for several months while bones and ligaments heal can do this. Often, however, surgery is needed to help keep the bones in the proper position while they heal. It should be understood that that surgery will not change how the spinal cord heals.
Surgery to stabilize the spine can be performed from the back of the spine, called posterior spine surgery, or from the front of the spine, called anterior spine surgery. In some cases, both approaches may be needed, usually in two separate operations.
A fusion procedure involves attaching metal screws, plates or other devices to the bones of the spine to help keep them properly aligned. This is usually done when two or more of the spinal bones, also called vertebrae, have been injured. Small pieces of bone may also be attached to the injured bones to help them fuse into one solid piece.
The bone used for this procedure is usually taken from another bone in the body, most often from the hip. This does not damage the hip and makes the fusion more stable. If needed, a small surgery on the hip will be performed at the same time as the spine surgery.