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Preparing for a Spine Surgery Procedure or Injection

Undergoing surgery for a spinal condition can be daunting, from the first day you learn that it’s needed for the post-surgery recovery.  With the right preparation and information, you can minimize the stress, pain, and anxiety making the process easier and understandable. Here are some points you should discuss with your doctor before the surgery:

Discuss expectations

  • Understand how the surgery will affect your condition.
  • Be involved in the decision to determine what surgery or treatment is best for you.  Ask about blood transfusions and other potential medical needs.
  • Take time to mentally prepare for the surgery - understand the process and everything that is involved.
  • A preoperative physical therapy appointment may be recommended to help with postoperative spine brace use and activities of daily living education.

Work with your doctor

  • You will need medical clearance and undergo a physical exam by your primary care physician and medical specialists to assess if your body is ready for the surgery and recovery. This workup will include blood tests, X-rays, and other routine examinations.
  • Talk to your doctor and his team about any medications or drugs you regularly take to determine if they should be continued.
  • For overweight patients, you might be asked to lose weight to ensure safer surgery and recovery.  Talk with your surgeon and a medical doctor about the best weight loss program for your situation.
  • Medications like Plavix, aspirin and other blood thinners can increase bleeding during surgery.  Depending on the medication, they may need to be stopped 2-10 days before the surgery. Check with your doctor’s team so you know if and when to stop your specific medications.  
  • If you have any infections the week of or before surgery, inform your surgeon immediately.  Your surgery may be canceled because infections must be treated before any surgery or procedure can be performed safely.
  • Inform your doctor of any other health conditions you might have, from teeth problems to bladder conditions.  Your doctor must have a complete understanding of your health situation.
  • Tobacco users of any sort including cigarettes, cigars, patches, gum, vaping or chewing must stop prior to the surgery and for at least 2 weeks post-op in order to prevent wound healing and lung issues.  Spine fusion patients need to stop smoking for 6 months after surgery because the poisons from the tobacco products in the bloodstream kill the growing bone graft, sometimes contributing to severe spinal fusion failures.

Tips for the Day of the Surgery

  • Driving will be very difficult after the surgery.  You must have a friend or relative drive you to and from the hospital.  You usually can resume driving after surgery when you're off narcotics or any sedating medications and feel safe.
  • You will not be able to eat and drink after midnight on the morning of surgery.  However, you can take the required medications with a tiny sip of water if approved by your surgeon.
  • Your first post-surgery meal should be light and healthy. Avoid fatty and greasy food and don’t overeat.
  • You can use ice on the site of any pain and swelling
  • Listen to your doctor - You can wean your pain meds as tolerated.  Take all medication as advised and contact your doctor immediately if you believe that something has gone wrong during recovery.