Spine Surgery Questions and Answers

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How Long Will It Take to Recover From Spine Surgery?

The biggest variables affecting recovery time are the nature of your surgery and your condition before surgery. Here are some general guidelines on what to expect.

Discectomy: Recovery is typically fairly quick. Some pain, numbness or weakness in the nerve that was compressed is normal and should clear up in a few weeks.

Laminectomy or fusion surgery: You should expect a longer recovery time and delays returning to normal activities. Bones take at least three to four months after surgery to heal.

How Soon After Spine Surgery Can I Drive?

Driving will depend on your surgery and your postoperative medication. Generally, you should assume you won’t be driving for at least two weeks after surgery. Once your surgeon clears you to drive, you will ease into it with short trips.

Keep your trips as a passenger short. If you have a long ride home after you are discharged, plan on stopping every half-hour or so to stretch.

How Should I Prepare My Home for After Spine Surgery?

  • Seek out a family member or friend who could assist you when you get home. Make arrangements for someone to be available to assist you after surgery and during the first few days of recovery.
  • A “grabber” so you can pick up items off the floor without bending over will come in handy. These are usually a few feet long and allow you to grasp socks, pens and other items that may fall on the floor.
  • Prepared meals and healthy snacks will save time and energy.
  • Remove floor mats, clutter and other items that could pose a tripping hazard.
  • Slip-on shoes will keep you from having to bend over to tie laces.
  • Make sure necessities are within easy reach. Waist level is best.
  • Make arrangements for child care and pet care.
  • Put night lights in the bathrooms and hallways.
  • Stop smoking. Smoking can inhibit the healing process and lead to more issues with your surgery.

Is Spine Surgery Risky?

Complications from spinal surgery are rare, but you should be aware of some risks:

  • Some pain after surgery should be expected, but sometimes surgery doesn’t relieve all of your preoperative pain and, in rare cases, can make it worse. Discuss your expectations for pain relief candidly with your surgeon.
  • After a spinal fusion, neighboring parts of the spine can take on more stress. Over time, this can lead to pain in the damaged part of the spine. This transitional syndrome can happen between a healthy area of the spine and the area that has been fused.
  • In a spinal fusion, the fused vertebrae may not heal together properly. The result is usually continued pain and a condition called pseudoarthrosis. Follow-up surgery may be required.

Will I Still Have Pain After Spine Surgery?

  • We will try to control your pain but will not be able to take all the pain away.
  • We will give you pain medicine safely, following your surgeon’s orders.
  • You will get pain medicine immediately after surgery. Pain pills and muscle relaxers will be started as soon as you can have food. Your nurse probably will tell you to ask for medication when you need it.
  • Even if you still have pain, you need to get out of bed and move as soon as your surgeon says it is OK to do so. Moving and walking may help to decrease your pain.

How Long Does It Take to Walk After Spine Surgery?

  • You will be helped to sit on the side of your bed on the day or night of surgery. You may be helped to get out of bed and walk.
  • The day of surgery, you will get out of bed and walk with the physical therapist or nurse at least three times a day. You will sit up for meals.
  • The more you get out of bed and walk, the faster you will recover.
  • Ask for help before getting out of bed. Call, don’t fall!

What Equipment Will I Have As I Recover From Spine Surgery?

  • IV: You will have an IV until your surgeon gives permission for it to be removed. You will get fluids through your IV during and after surgery.
  • Incentive spirometer: Your nurse or respiratory therapist will show you how to do deep-breathing exercises with an incentive spirometer (breathing tool) every hour while you are awake.
  • Urinary catheter: If you have a catheter (tube to drain your urine), it will be removed the day after surgery.
  • Drain: If you have a drain from your surgical incision (cut), it will be removed before you go home.
  • Leg/foot pumps: These are wraps that go around your legs or feet to help circulate your blood through your legs and feet. These should be on whenever you are in bed.
  • Brace: Your surgeon may want you to wear a back or neck brace after surgery. Follow your surgeon’s instructions about when and how to wear the brace. .

Will I Need Someone to Help Me at Home When I Leave The Hospital?

  • You will need someone to help you at home and someone to drive you to your appointments until your surgeon says it is OK for you to drive.
  • A care management nurse will come to your hospital room after surgery and talk to you about your care after you leave the hospital.
  • The physical therapist will determine the level of care you will require after discharge. With insurance approval, options include going home with a home health agency or a skilled nursing facility. A skilled nursing facility will do inpatient physical therapy and the staff can help take care of you.

About Norton Leatherman Spine

Norton Leatherman Spine is a combined team of orthopedic spine surgeons, neurosurgeons from Norton Neuroscience Institute and pain management specialists who provide care for adults and children from Louisville and Southern Indiana, as well as from across the region, nation and world.

  • The multidisciplinary team incorporates expertise from a variety of specialties to offer a comprehensive array of treatment options that include minimally invasive and nonsurgical therapies.
  • Our team approach to the diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation of spine conditions works cooperatively with primary care physicians and other specialists to develop a treatment plan as unique as each individual.
  • Because you may not need surgery, you may work with our pain management team, physical therapy specialists and others who can create a care plan with the right types of treatments for you.
  • If you need surgery, you’re in experienced hands. Norton Leatherman Spine physicians perform more than 4,000 surgeries a year.
  • Our team has more than 45 specialists at nearly 20 offices across Louisville and Southern Indiana. Many offer same-day appointments and Saturday hours, with no referral needed
  • Our specialists are internationally recognized leaders in clinical research of spinal disease, injury and deformity, and have served in senior positions in the Scoliosis Research Society, the most prestigious organization for scoliosis surgeons around the world.
  • Norton Healthcare is the first health system in the nation to be recognized as an Advanced Orthopedic & Spine Center of Excellence by DNV.
  • We offer minimally invasive and robotic-assisted procedures that carry less risk and can speed your recovery.
  • We use the EOS Imaging system, which collects high-resolution images while exposing the patient to 50% to 85% less radiation than traditional X-rays and 95% less than basic CT scans. The system is especially beneficial to scoliosis patients who often need repeated imaging to monitor their progress.
  • Use MyNortonChart to communicate with your provider, manage appointments, refill prescriptions and more, anytime from a mobile device or computer

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