My doctor says there's less of a chance that I'll get good results from spine surgery because I smoke. He thinks the bones in my spine may not grow together properly. Is there any way to get a better outcome, save quitting?

There are some relatively new techniques that may improve your chances of spinal fusion--or getting the bones to grow together--after surgery. Electrical stimulation is one of them. This technique was first used in the 1950s but has only recently been used for spinal fusion. It has had especially good results for smokers and other high-risk patients.

Surgeons can implant a device that delivers a mild electrical current directly to the healing site. Or you could wear a pulsing device on your skin after surgery. Depending on the type of electrical current, you would need to wear the device anywhere from eight to 24 hours a day.

The first method really targets the fusion site, but it's also more invasive. The second method is a little less direct. Its success depends on how regularly you wear the device. Another device that uses ultrasound waves has also been shown to promote bone growth. Ask your doctor whether any of these alternatives may be helpful in your case.