What to Expect After Spine Surgery

When a patient first awakes from anesthesia, they can expect some local pain from the surgery itself. Pain might come from the incision site. However, oftentimes, the previous pain from the abnormal pathology, injury, or cause for surgery has subsided to a point where the patient notices right away.

Factors that can affect what a patient experiences following minimally invasive spine surgery include:

• age

• the seriousness of the condition

• how long they have been dealing with the condition

• any other health issues they may have, referred to as comorbidities

Following surgery, patients can experience some residual tingling and numbness in their arms and legs depending on whether they had a neck or a back operation. Patients with severe spot compression or a severe nerve compression may experience symptoms following a minimally invasive spine surgery once the pressure is taken off the nerve and the nerve begins to regenerate. With that said, the extent of pain totally depends on the pathology or what was occurring prior to surgery and the symptoms can vary from person to person.

Bruising and Flare-Ups

Typically, there is no bruising following a minimally invasive spine surgery. Usually, bruising is a sign of another problem. This could mean a risk of embolism or deep vein thrombosis or something along those lines. Ordinarily, when the patients come back for a post-operative visit a few days following the surgery, a doctor will be checking for signs of bruising, possible infection, or wound care issues.

It is possible that there will be pain flare-ups after a surgery, but that is also usually indicative of a problem and not something an individual should expect following minimally invasive spine surgery. In the context of surgery, a pain flare-up could indicate several things. This could mean that the disc was re-herniated, or that there are infection complications. This could also mean that the patient has another problem that needs to be addressed.

If there is a pain flare-up and it is something that is persistent, you should return to your doctor for evaluation.

How Long Post-Surgery Effects Last

Post-surgery effects vary from patient to patient but, in general, some patients experience improvement in their neurologic symptoms immediately in the recovery room. The soreness from the surgical site may take from seven to ten days to improve, depending on the type of procedure and the approach to the spine.

Usually, the neurologic symptoms, which are the radiating symptoms that go into the arms or legs, tend to respond more rapidly to the surgery. Some patients have improvement in their neurologic exam in the recovery room. The back or neck pain from the procedure may take a week or so to improve.

Other Things to Expect

With minimally invasive spine surgery, patients can expect to have a much faster recovery, sometimes up to 25 percent of what is normally expected with a traditional operation.

Patients should except some level of medication after surgery, especially if they were on medication prior to surgery. However, most people undergo minimally invasive spine surgery because they want to stop taking the pain medications and they want to get better, and patients can expect to ease off their medications in a short period of time.

Recovery at the Site of the Incision

Typically, with a neck procedure or back procedure, there is some initial soreness at the surgical site. There can be some incisional pain depending on what type of surgery is performed. With more minimally-invasive surgeries and with some of the endoscopic surgeries, there is minimal post-incisional pain and quick neurologic recovery. These are two of the benefits of these minimally-invasive techniques.

Sometimes, the biggest post-surgery risk is a re-herniation of a disc or a complication within the first couple of months after the surgery, so it is very important to take it easy and follow any doctor’s orders.