Spine surgery - discharge
You were in the hospital for spine surgery. You probably had a problem with one or more disks. A disk is a cushion that separates the bones in your spine (vertebrae).
Now that you're going home, follow the surgeon's instructions on how to care for yourself while you recover.
Diskectomy - discharge; Foraminotomy - discharge; Laminectomy - discharge; Spinal fusion - discharge; Spinal microdiskectomy - discharge; Microdecompression - discharge; Laminotomy - discharge; Disk removal - discharge; Spine surgery - diskectomy - discharge; Intervertebral foramina - discharge; Spine surgery - foraminotomy - discharge; Lumbar decompression - discharge; Decompressive laminectomy - discharge; Spine surgery - laminectomy - discharge; Vertebral interbody fusion - discharge; Posterior spinal fusion - discharge; Arthrodesis - discharge; Anterior spinal fusion - discharge; Spine surgery - spinal fusion - discharge
When You're in the Hospital
You may have had one of these surgeries:
What to Expect at Home
Recovery after diskectomy is usually quick.
After a diskectomy or foraminotomy, you may still feel pain, numbness, or weakness along the path of the nerve that was under pressure. These symptoms should get better in a few weeks.
Recovery after laminectomy and fusion surgery is longer. You will not be able to return to activities as quickly. It takes at least 3 to 4 months after surgery for bones to heal well, and healing may continue for at least a year.
If you had spinal fusion, you will probably be off work for 4 to 6 weeks if you are young and healthy and your job is not very strenuous. It may take 4 to 6 months for older people with more extensive surgery to get back to work.
Length of recovery also depends on how bad your condition was before surgery.
Your bandages (or tape) may fall off within 7 to 10 days. If not, you may remove them yourself if your surgeon says it's OK.
You may feel numbness or pain around your incision, and it may look a little red. Check it every day to see if it:
If any of these occur, call your surgeon.
Check with your surgeon about when you can shower again. You may be told the following:
DO NOT smoke or use tobacco products after spine surgery. Avoiding tobacco is even more important if you had a fusion or graft. Smoking and using tobacco products slows the healing process.
You will need to change how you do some things. Try not to sit for longer than 20 or 30 minutes at one time. Sleep in any position that does not cause back pain. Your surgeon will tell you when you can resume sex.
You may be fitted for a back brace or corset to help support your back:
DO NOT bend at the waist. Instead, bend your knees and squat down to pick up something. DO NOT lift or carry anything heavier than around 10 pounds or 4.5 kilograms (about 1 gallon or 4 liters of milk). This means you should not lift a laundry basket, grocery bags, or small children. You should also avoid lifting something above your head until your fusion heals.
Your surgeon may prescribe physical therapy so that you learn how to move and do activities in a way that prevents pain and keeps your back in a safe position. These may include how to:
Your surgeon and physical therapist can help you decide whether or when you can return to your previous job.
Riding or driving in a car:
Your surgeon will give you a prescription for pain medicines. Get it filled when you go home so you have it available. Take the medicine before the pain becomes very bad. If you will be doing an activity, take the medicine about half an hour before you start.
When to Call the Doctor
Call your surgeon if you have any of the following:
Hamilton KM, Trost GR. Perioperative management. In: Steinmetz MP, Benzel EC, eds. Benzel's Spine Surgery. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2017:chap 195.
Review Date: 3/17/2019
Reviewed By: C. Benjamin Ma, MD, Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, San Francisco, CA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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