How to Prepare for Spine Surgery

The following steps should be taken to prepare for spine surgery:

  • Discuss with your surgeon all the questions and concerns you may have
  • Exercise on a regular basis to improve your recovery rate
  • If you smoke, stop before surgery
  • Stop taking any nonessential medications and any herbal remedies which may react with anesthetics or other medications

What to Expect Before, During and After Surgery
Having any surgery — spinal or otherwise — is a major decision. Individuals need to weigh their discomfort against the time, pain, and recovery associated with surgery before making their final decision. Occasionally, surgical correction is the only real option.

To increase the success rates of surgery, the best thing a patient can do is be well-informed and realistic, opt for minimally invasive spine surgery procedures when possible and follow through with rehabilitation. No two surgical experiences are the same, but understanding what to expect before, during and after surgery can go a long way toward a successful outcome.

Before

  • During the days leading up to the surgery, the patient will likely be instructed about what foods and medication to take or avoid and will need to complete a final preoperation screening. 
  • Prior to undergoing an operation, it is important for the patient to learn everything they can about the procedure. This helps alleviate the stress that can accompany surgery, as well as assist the patient in setting realistic goals about their recovery process.
  • The patient will need to make plans for taking time off from work, returning home and having someone there to provide postsurgical care.
During
  • You will be escorted to the Surgical Procedure Area (SPA) to meet with your nurses and anesthesiologist.Your loved ones can wait for you in the Visitor’s Lounge. A nurse will periodically update your loved ones on your progress throughout the surgery.
  • A patient undergoing minimally invasive surgery of the back or neck is placed under deep IV sedation and can actually walk out of the hospital the same day as the procedure.
  • The surgery itself can vary from an outpatient procedure to a major operation that requires lengthy hospitalization. During traditional open back surgery, for example, a patient is placed under general anesthesia and surgery can take several hours.
  • After surgery, you will be taken to the Post Anesthesia Care Unit (PACU). You will remain there until your vital signs are stable and you have fully awakened from the anesthesia. You will then be transferred to the surgical floor.

After
After surgery, patients will need:

  • Back surgery rehabilitation
  • Pain treatment with medication and ice 
  • Physical therapy
  • Plenty of rest, but also limited movement shortly after surgery 
  • Postoperative follow-up appointments
  • Some period of recovery at the hospital (be it several hours or days)

Returning Home

  • Equipment needs
    If needed, your discharge planner will assist you in procuring your equipment needs. Remember, not everything is covered by your insurance.
  • Pets
    Your pet will be excited to have you home. They may jump up to get closer to you, which could cause a fall. Upon your arrival home, we recommend you have your driver enter first to put your pets in another room. Then your driver can assist you into the home. After you have settled into a chair or your bed, let your pet out and have a joyous reunion.
  • Prescriptions
    Your surgeon will write your discharge medications on your day of discharge. On occasion, they may write prescriptions for you during your last preoperative visit.
  • Transportation home
    Hopefully your driver can take you home in a sedan-type car, the best type of car to get into after surgery. Cars that are lower to the ground and trucks that have been raised up can make getting in and out more difficult. These precautions are specific to the different types of surgeries so it’s possible that you may not have any issues at all.
Donnie's patient story

Patient Testimonials
After a lifetime of constantly standing and bending over as a hairdresser, Donnie Roman started noticing soreness in her back. She knew it was time to be treated when the pain became so excruciating that she was barely able to get out of bed each day. Read Donnie's spine surgery story.

Find a San Diego Orthopedic Surgeon
To learn more about orthopedics at Sharp or to find a Sharp-affiliated doctor, search for San Diego orthopedic surgeons or call 1-800-82-SHARP (1-800-827-4277), Monday through Friday, from 8 am to 6 pm.

For More Orthopedics Information
To find general information about orthopedics, visit Orthopedic Surgery in Adult Health or read the Orthopedics News archive.