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Thoracic fusion

A thoracic fusion is usually done to make your upper back (thoracic spine) more stable and prevent unwanted movement.This surgical procedure involves refilling the space between the vertebrae with a piece of bone called a bone graft. The bonemay be taken from your hipor a bone bank and may be fixed in place withmetal plates, screws or wires at thefusion site to strengthen it. The surgery can be done either from the front or back of the body. The bone graft takes 3 to 4 months to fully heal and fuse or join together permanently.Thoracic fusion surgery may be used to treat:
  • pain in the mid back, chest or ribs
  • a fractured vertebra
  • deformity of the spine e.g. scoliosis or kyphosis (spinal curves)
  • instability
  • damaged discs (fusion together with discectomy)
  • weak or unstable spine caused by infections or tumors
As well as increasing stability of the spine, a thoracic fusion is often done clear space so less pressure is put on the spinal cord and/or nerve roots. This will help reduce pain and improve function.

Physiotherapy before a thoracic fusion

Physiotherapy treatment before your surgery will keep the muscles and joints in your neck strong and flexible to aid your recovery. It is important to remain active and continue with simple stretching and strengthening exercises in the weeks and days before your operation.

Symptoms following a thoracic fusion

You will experience some pain and reduced range of movement after your surgery. A physiotherapist will usually see you the day after your surgery, to check your mobility andthe movement and strength in your arms and legs. Your physiotherapist will help you to stand and either march on the spot or to walk up and down the ward. You will be able to go home once you are safe to walk independently and are managing to do the exercises effectively by yourself.The physiotherapist will usually assess your ability to climb the stairs before you are discharged. The hospital stay for thoracic fusion is usually 2 days. It may take between 3 to 4 months for the bone to fully fuse.On discharge from hospital, it is important to continue physiotherapy in order to get the best possible recovery.

Physiotherapy following a thoracic fusion

Physiotherapy treatment at following your surgery will allow you tomanage your daily tasks more comfortably andmaximise your ability with those tasks important to you.

1-2 weeks

Physiotherapy treatment at this stage of your recovery will concentrate on reducing pain and inflammation and gradually increase youractivity levels.

At, your physiotherapist will develop short and long term treatment goals in order to monitor your progress and maximise your potential.

Physiotherapy treatment at this stage may include:
  • Ice application to aid pain and swelling
  • Positioning of your upper back in bed, chair and during functional tasks such as washing, dressing and cooking
  • Advice about what movements to continue and which activities to avoid during early rehabilitation.
  • Gentle range of movement exercises and low impact activities. E.g. walking is the easiest way to improve fitness which can be gradually increased over your recovery.

2-6 weeks

Your physiotherapist after the first couple of weeks will begin to guide you through activities and exercises tailored to your individual needs. A structured exercise program will be introduced in order to reduce pain and begin to strengthen the muscles in your back and increase your range of movement so that you get back to a level you were previously as soon as possible. Physiotherapy may include:
  • Stretching exercises to improve the flexibility of your upper back.
  • Active range of movement exercises to strengthen the muscles in your back
  • Walking
  • Stationary cycling

6-12 weeks

After 6-8 weeks your physiotherapist at, will continue to increase your activities, as long as it remains comfortable on your wound. Heavy lifting and manual labour should be avoided for at least three months.You may be advised to stay offfor a longer period of time if you have a manual job.

Gradually over the next 2-3 months your physiotherapist will guide through exercises centred around functional tasks and recreational activities important to you such as swimming, tennis, and gardening. Physiotherapy treatment at this stage may include:
  • Active and passive movement of your upper back, neck and shoulders
  • Isometric abdominal strengthening exercises
  • Stretching exercises your upper back to increase range of movement and lengthen soft tissue
  • Continued aerobic exercises such as walking and stationary cycling

12+ weeks

Your physiotherapy treatment at following your thoracic fusion may take up to three months to ensure that you are confident with everyday activities as well as sporting activities. At this stage of your recovery your physiotherapist will continue to progress your treatment to restore back mobility, improve muscle strength and general fitness.

It is important you adhere to your treatment programme to get the best possible results.

Physiotherapy treatment at will optimise your ability and confidence with activities important to you and return you to activities as soon as possible.

For more information call now on 0330 088 7800 or to book an appointment please contact us.

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