Spinal Fusion Surgery Services

Dr. Fessler talking to a patient about spinal fusion

Spinal Fusion Surgery Services

Spinal fusion surgery is a procedure that permanently fuses two or more vertebrae — the bones in your spine — so they grow together. The goal is to prevent movement between them, keeping the back or neck stable and reducing pain and symptoms from spinal cord and nerve conditions.

The term “spinal fusion” covers several types of surgery that use different techniques in different areas of the spine. Cervical spinal fusion involves vertebrae in the neck, thoracic spinal fusion involves vertebrae in the middle back and lumbar spinal fusion involves vertebrae in the lower back. Within these areas, there are many types of spinal fusion that range from minimally invasive to open surgery.

Spinal fusion surgery can treat many issues in the back and neck, including degenerative or aging conditions, scoliosis, pinched nerves, certain infections, tumors and spinal trauma.

If you have spinal pain, numbness, weakness or other symptoms and nonsurgical treatment hasn’t worked for you, spinal fusion may be a good treatment option.

The RUSH Approach to Spinal Fusion Surgery

If you have a spinal condition that causes pain or severe symptoms, we understand that you want it treated quickly so the problem doesn’t get worse and you can find relief. At RUSH, your care team will see you within two weeks. They can see you even sooner if your situation is urgent.

We'll run full tests to diagnose your condition before talking about care options with you. We explore nonsurgical treatment, such as physical therapy and medications, to address spinal problems whenever possible before recommending spinal fusion.

If you do need spinal fusion surgery, our team will create a custom plan to meet your needs. Spinal fusion may seem scary, so we'll take the time to walk you through the procedure and answer your questions so you feel comfortable.

Some spinal fusion surgery can be done with minimally invasive techniques through a small incision. This can lead to less blood loss, less postoperative pain, lower risk of infection, shorter hospital stays and faster recovery. Your care team will let you know if this is an option for you.

Our physicians use a team approach to treatment. You’ll have some of the top spinal surgeons in the world working with you. But they’ll also make sure you have access to pain management specialists, rehabilitation physicians, physical therapists, occupational therapists and any other specialists you may need for care and recovery.

Spinal Fusion Surgery Providers at RUSH

RUSH has spinal fusion surgery providers at our medical center in Chicago.

Meet our spinal fusion surgeons
stethoscope Meet our spinal fusion surgeons

What Happens Before, During and After Spinal Fusion Surgery

Spinal fusion patients will have a few tests before surgery to help their care team create the best custom treatment plan. These tests often include X-rays, MRIs and CT scans.

The team will help you explore your options and make sure that spinal fusion surgery is right for you.

Because there are so many different types of spinal fusion surgery, they can vary in how complex they are and how long they will take. One procedure could take a half hour while another could take 10 hours. Your surgeon and care team will be able to give you more specific information.

During surgery, you will be under anesthesia. The surgeon will place bone-grafting material between the vertebrae that they are fusing together. This material helps bone tissue build up in the right places as your body heals.

Then, the surgeon will usually attach metal instruments that will keep the bones in place and allow for bone growth. These can include screws, rods or plates.

The amount of time you spend in the hospital afterward will depend on the type of spinal fusion you have and your condition. Some are outpatient procedures, meaning you’ll leave the hospital shortly after surgery, likely the same or next day. Others are complicated surgeries that require you to stay for a week or more as you recover.

Most patients are able to walk again the day after surgery, if not sooner. But total recovery time can range from several weeks to several months, depending on the type of spinal fusion. It will likely take a few weeks to fully return to driving, working, lifting and other usual activities.

Recovery often involves pain management after surgery. It can also include physical therapy and occupational therapy. You may need to wear a brace as you recover.

You will likely have follow-up visits for up to two years to make sure your bones are healing properly.

Most patients don’t have limitations on their physical activity once they fully recover. They can get back to their normal lives and can even play recreational sports.

Second Opinions for Spinal Fusion Surgery at RUSH

If a physician has recommended that you get spinal fusion surgery, you may want to seek a second opinion. This can help you explore your options, including alternatives to surgery, or help confirm that you’re getting the most appropriate care.

At RUSH, we offer second opinions for spinal diagnoses or procedures to any patient who feels uncertain about spinal fusion or other treatments. To get started, call us at

RUSH Excellence in Spinal Fusion Surgery

  • Top-ranked care: U.S. News & World Report includes RUSH in its Best Hospitals Honor Roll and ranks our neurology and neurosurgery program among the best in the nation. We’ve also been designated as a Blue Distinction Center for Spine Surgery for our commitment to high-quality care, patient safety and providing the best possible outcomes.
  • Appointments when you need them: You can see a member of our spine team in Chicago for an initial consultation or second opinion within one to two weeks of calling — and within a few days for more urgent issues like a spinal tumor or paralysis. Whatever treatments you need, we'll help coordinate them, including scheduling imaging tests, surgery and other appointments.
  • Surgical expertise: RUSH is a leader in minimally invasive spine surgery. Our surgical team performs most procedures, including fusion and disc replacement, using less invasive approaches, which can lead to fewer complications, shorter hospital stays and faster recovery. Our spine surgeons typically perform more than 2,300 spine surgeries each year. Because they see a wide variety of spine issues and can draw on their experience, they can provide you with better outcomes and fewer complications.
  • Percutaneous spine surgery: Some minimally invasive spinal fusion surgeries can be performed percutaneously. With percutaneous minimally invasive surgery, screws used for fusion are inserted into the skin through small incisions without cutting underlying muscle as with open surgery.
  • Safer surgery with 3D and augmented reality tools: We have technology that allows our surgeons to create 3D surgical models. These models allow surgeons to better plan surgeries, create safer care plans and achieve better outcomes for patients. Our surgeons were also the first in the world to use augmented reality to superimpose 3D surgical models directly onto the surgical area for even greater accuracy.
  • New techniques and treatments: Our spinal fusion surgeons conduct ongoing research and clinical trials of new treatment options and techniques. This means you may have options for care that are not always available at other hospitals.

FAQs About Spinal Fusion Surgery

Can you have a normal life after spinal fusion?

Most patients who get spinal fusion surgery can return to their normal lives after they’ve recovered. They don’t have many limitations, if any, and can even play sports.

What is the recovery time from spinal fusion surgery?

The total recovery time for spinal fusion patients can vary a lot depending on the type of spinal fusion they get. Minimally invasive spinal fusion often results in quicker recovery time, and some patients can leave the hospital the next day. Other spinal fusion surgeries are complex, and patients need to spend a week or more in the hospital.

The total recovery time you spend both in and out of the hospital can range as well. Some patients recover within several weeks. Others take months. Your surgeon will help set expectations for you when you discuss your care plan with them.

How long after spinal fusion can I walk?

The amount of time before patients can walk following spinal fusion surgery will vary. The majority of spinal fusion patients are able to walk the next day, if not sooner. Others may need longer. It depends on the type of spinal fusion and the condition being treated. Your surgeon can help you understand what your recovery may look like based on your individual case.

Spinal Fusion Surgery Locations

Select a location to see options

Exterior view of Rubschlager Building

RUSH Neurosurgery

1520 W Harrison St
Joan and Paul Rubschlager Building - 6th Floor
Chicago, IL 60607

Get Directions


Mon – Fri: 8:00 am – 4:30 pm
Sat – Sun: Closed
Make an Appointment View Location