What Kind of Anesthesia is Used for Spinal Fusion Surgery? - Awake Spinal Fusion
Awake Spinal Fusion is a minimally invasive procedure that doesn’t require general anesthesia. Instead of a lengthy hospital stay, you’re up and about in just a few hours.
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What Kind of Anesthesia is Used for Spinal Fusion Surgery?

By Dr. Alok Sharan
Jun. 22, 2024

What Kind of Anesthesia is Used for Spinal Fusion Surgery?

**Spinal fusion surgery is a complex procedure aimed at alleviating pain and stabilizing the spine by fusing two or more vertebrae together. The success of this surgery greatly depends on many factors, including the type of anesthesia used. In this blog post, we’ll delve into the different types of anesthesia commonly employed during spinal fusion surgery, their benefits, and what patients can expect.

Types of Anesthesia for Spinal Fusion Surgery

1. General Anesthesia

General anesthesia is the most common choice for spinal fusion surgery. It renders the patient completely unconscious, ensuring they are unaware of the procedure and feel no pain.

– **How It Works:** A combination of intravenous (IV) medications and inhaled gases is used to induce and maintain anesthesia. Common IV agents include propofol, while inhaled agents might be sevoflurane or desflurane.
– **Advantages:** It provides a controlled, pain-free environment for complex and lengthy procedures like spinal fusion.
– **Considerations:** Patients will require close monitoring during and after the procedure due to the effects on respiration and cardiovascular function.

2. Regional Anesthesia

Regional anesthesia involves numbing a specific region of the body, and while less common for spinal fusion, it can sometimes be used in combination with general anesthesia for postoperative pain management.

– **Spinal Anesthesia:** This involves injecting an anesthetic into the spinal fluid, resulting in numbness from the waist down. It’s rarely used alone for spinal fusion but can complement general anesthesia.
– **Epidural Anesthesia:** Similar to spinal anesthesia but administered through a catheter in the epidural space. It provides continuous pain relief during and after surgery.
– **Advantages:** Helps in reducing postoperative pain and can lower the need for opioid medications.
– **Considerations:** Requires precise administration and monitoring for potential complications such as low blood pressure or infection.

3. Sedation

Sedation is typically used in conjunction with regional anesthesia. It helps relax the patient and can range from mild (conscious sedation) to deep (where the patient is almost unconscious but not intubated).

– **Intravenous Sedation:** Medications like midazolam or fentanyl are administered through an IV to help the patient relax.
– **Advantages:** Keeps the patient calm and comfortable without the need for full general anesthesia.
– **Considerations:** Not suitable for all patients, especially those undergoing extensive spinal procedures.

Factors Influencing Anesthesia Choice

Several factors influence the choice of anesthesia for spinal fusion surgery:

– **Patient’s Health:** Pre-existing conditions like respiratory issues or cardiovascular diseases may make certain types of anesthesia more suitable than others.
– **Extent of Surgery:** More extensive surgeries may require general anesthesia to ensure a controlled environment.
– **Patient’s Preferences and History:** Past reactions to anesthesia and patient comfort are also significant considerations.

Preparation and Recovery

Before Surgery:

– **Assessment:** The anesthesiologist will review the patient’s medical history, conduct a physical examination, and discuss anesthesia options.
– **Fasting:** Patients are usually required to fast for a certain period before surgery to reduce the risk of complications during anesthesia.

After Surgery:

– **Recovery:** Patients are moved to a recovery room where they are monitored as the anesthesia wears off.
– **Pain Management:** Postoperative pain management plans often include pain medications and may utilize regional anesthesia techniques like epidural analgesia for continued relief.


At the Spine and Performance Institute, Dr. Sharan has been a pioneer of the Awake Spinal Fusion technique.  By avoiding general anesthesia patients are able to recovery rapidly.  Normally patients stay in the hospital 1-2 days after their surgery.  For those who undergo the Rapid Recovery protocol using the Awake Spinal Fusion technique, patients are often leaving the hospital within 4 hours.


Choosing the right type of anesthesia for spinal fusion surgery is critical for the procedure’s success and the patient’s comfort. General anesthesia is most commonly used due to its effectiveness in managing pain and maintaining patient safety. However, regional anesthesia and sedation may also play crucial roles, particularly in pain management post-surgery. Discussing the options with an experienced anesthesiologist ensures that the approach is tailored to the patient’s needs, leading to a smoother surgery and recovery process.