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Spinal Instrumentation

What is spinal instrumentation?

The use of hooks, rods, or wires for spinal surgery is called spinal instrumentation. These instruments help stabilize and strengthen the spine. Your surgeon will decide in each case which type of instrument to use. For example, one or more rods may be used to attach the bones of the spine together. Sometimes rods are placed on each side of the spine and attached with hooks to the backbones.

When is spinal instrumentation used?

There are many conditions that may need surgery in order to stabilize the back. Spinal instrumentation is used to help people with:

  • broken backs or necks
  • degenerative disease of the spine, such as arthritis
  • birth defects
  • Marfan syndrome
  • tumors
  • scoliosis
  • neuromuscular disease

What happens after the procedure?

After a spinal surgery, you can usually go home in 5 to 7 days. You will have special instructions and activity restrictions while you continue to heal. The recovery time depends on the type of instrumentation used, the specific problem that was corrected, and your age and health. In some cases you will need to wear a cast or brace after surgery.

Typically, no bending, lifting, or twisting is allowed for 3 months after surgery while the spine heals. After your healthcare provider can see that the bone is healing, you may need to start a rehabilitation program to help you get back to doing your normal activities. This will include strengthening exercises.

You will not be able to play contact sports and will be told to avoid situations that put stress on the spine. Most people who have spinal instrumentation surgery do well. The scars on the back are usually small.

When should I call my healthcare provider?

Call your healthcare provider or surgeon if you develop:

  • Fevers or chills
  • increased pain around the surgery site
  • Signs of infection over the surgery site such as redness, bleeding, swelling, or foul-smelling drainage from the site
Written by Lee Mancini, MD., CSCS.
Published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2011-05-31
Last reviewed: 2011-05-31
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
© 2011 RelayHealth and/or its affiliates. All rights reserved.
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