Frequently Asked Questions For Patients
What are some important things I should do before surgery?
- It is very important to stop smoking. Smoking makes it difficult for bone and tissue to heal properly.
- See your primary care physician for a pre-operative physical examination.
- Stop taking aspirin and/or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen, naproxen before your surgery
What are the important things to do after surgery?
- Schedule your post-operative visit at the office, usually two weeks after you are discharged.
- Wear your brace or collar as directed
- Walk to strengthen your spine and promote fusion
- Take your pain medication exactly as directed
- Do not drive until advised to do so, normally not until after the first post-operative visit.
- Do not smoke whatsoever; if you smoke your bones may not fuse.
What is the normal length of stay in the hospital for various types of surgery?
- Lumbar fusion 2-4 days
- Anterior cervical fusion 1-2 days
- Lumbar laminectomy 1-2 days
- Lumbar microdiscectomy outpatient/ 23 hours
- Posterior cervical fusion 2-3 days
- Intracranial surgery 3-5 days
What will I experience in my recovery at home after lumbar spine surgery?
You will experience some level of post-operative pain that requires a prescription pain medication. Less invasive procedures generally need less medication. It is normal to have interrupted sleep at night for a short period of time, this will improve gradually as you heal.
What will I experience in my recovery at home after cervical spine surgery?
The most common complaint after anterior cervical procedures is difficulty swallowing. This is normal and it will resolve in approximately 3-7 days. Make sure to consume a soft diet and avoid large pills, hard breads, chewy foods and meats. You may need to crush your pills. Posterior approached cervical procedures are accompanied by more post-operative neck pain, but this resolves normally in one to two weeks’ time.
What can I do at home during the post-operative period to improve my range of motion and use proper body mechanics in my daily activities to get back to my normal lifestyle?
In the hospital your physical therapist will teach home exercises and proper body mechanics prior to your discharge. If you need more comprehensive physical therapy it will be ordered after your first post-operative visit or when your incision is completely healed.
How can I minimize pain and discomfort after surgery?
It is important to move your joints and muscles within a tolerable range of motion; the right level of movement will help your recovery. If you feel more pain than usual after an activity, you may be trying to do too much too soon after your operation. Take it a little easy for a few hours. Do not lift more than ten pounds of weight, and do not do extensive twisting, bending or overhead work.
What should I expect when using a brace during my recovery period?
The back brace decreases twisting and bending motions when worn properly. This helps to decrease pain after surgery and will promote bony fusion. A back brace fitted for lumbar fusion does not have to be worn in bed. It is very important to wear it when walking or driving.
How many physical therapy sessions might I expect to have during my rehabilitation period after back or neck surgery? What should I expect from PT sessions?
Many patients need approximately 8-15 sessions of physical therapy after surgery. The therapists will instruct you on increasing mobility and strength during your recovery period. You will be performing stretching and core strengthening exercises.
What exercises would be helpful for me to do following lumbar spine surgery?
Walking is the best exercise after back surgery. It strengthens your back and leg muscles and increases endurance. Begin walking around the house for a few minutes and build up gradually to taking several walks a day, indoors or outside on level pavement. You should also perform consistently the exercises shown to you by the physical therapist at the hospital.
How many months after surgery will I keep following up with Dr. Lloyd at office visits?
After a cervical or lumbar fusion there will be approximately six visits over the course of the next 12 months. X-rays of the back or neck will be done at 3 months, 6 months and one year intervals after surgery so your healing progress can be evaluated.
How will I know when it is appropriate to call the office with questions or concerns during my post-operative recovery period?
You should call the office if you:
- Have persistent or severe pain, weakness, or numbness in your back, neck, legs or arms
- Notice drainage, swelling or increased redness around your incision site
- Have a fever, severe headache, difficulty breathing or have problems controlling your bladder or bowels
What are the possible complications of surgery?
The highest standard of care and post-operative result is always our goal.
However, there is always the possibility that complication(s) can arise after surgery. The following results are not probable, but are possible complications:
Blood loss, infection, damage to nerves, non-union/healing of the bony fusion, loosening /breakage of implanted hardware, little or no improvement of pain after surgery
How can I care for myself in the future following back surgery?
Surgery may not make your spine just like new, but it can help relieve a great deal of your pain and allow you to get back to the activities you enjoy. How well your back recovers depends upon the time and energy you put into protecting and strengthening your spine, now and for the rest of your life.
Maintaining good posture, moving with proper body mechanics (bending, lifting, etc.), exercising regularly and maintaining a healthy weight and diet are the best things you can do for your back. It is extremely important to quit smoking indefinitely so your tissues and bone fully heal.