If you are getting ready to undergo spinal surgery, it is crucial to understand that post-operative care is as important as the preoperative preparation and the surgery itself. Poor post-operative care following spinal surgery can bring about a poor outcome, even when the surgery went as planned.
Excellent post-operative care can prevent or address any complications that might arise post-spine surgery. Your experienced spinal surgeon will go over your post-operative instructions and options with you prior to your spinal surgery taking place.
Factors that Affect Recovery
There are several post-operative factors that can affect the outcome of spinal surgery, including:
- The specific type of spinal surgery performed
- Whether the patient has been a smoker or continues to smoke or take nicotine products, since nicotine hinders the growth of new bone cells, which is essential to post-operative spinal healing
- The patient’s overall health and nutrition
- Whether the patient suffers from any diseases that could cause complications with healing, such as obesity, diabetes, osteoporosis, depression, etc.
- The patient’s ability to follow post-operative instructions, especially orders to avoid certain activities during recovery, such as vigorous exercise
- The patient’s ability to properly care for the incision site
- Prior spinal surgery
- Cooperation with post-operative testing procedures, such as lung capacity and breathing tests
- A history of steroid or narcotics abuse
While not all aspects of post-operative care can be foreseeable, there are many ways in which a patient and their family can ease the burden of post-operative care in advance of surgery. Some recommendations for planning for a smooth recovery include:
- Working with the spinal surgeon to order and obtain pain medication prescriptions in advance, since many jurisdictions have regulations in place that make accessing certain pain medications a lengthy process. It will be important for pain management to have the necessary medications on hand immediately following the spinal surgery
- Deciding whether to use a pain management device to deliver pain medication intravenously, in addition to oral pain medications
- Discuss with the surgeon when patients are typically able and allowed to resume climbing stairs. Patients may choose to prepare accessible accommodations -such as planning to recover in a first-floor bedroom, or renting a bed for the main floor from a medical supplier – in advance
- Taking concrete steps to quit smoking or using other nicotine products, if applicable
- Lining up a friend, relative, nursing service or other caretaker to help post-surgery, and consider who will take over household duties, such as preparing meals, doing laundry and cleaning
- Planning for a gentle exercise or physical therapy program as recovery progresses
Consulting a Spinal Surgeon
Only an experienced spinal surgeon has the skills necessary to help you prepare for your post-operative recovery following spinal surgery. It is important to raise any concerns about your post-operative care with your spinal surgeon as soon as possible.