Eight out of ten Americans will experience back pain during their lifetime. For many of these sufferers, at-home care can sometimes reduce symptoms. But what if an operation such as spinal fusion surgery is necessary to ease the pain?
Back surgery may sound like a stressful and scary experience. A little planning ahead of time and knowing what to expect, however, can calm your worries.
Here’s everything you need to know about preparing for spinal fusion surgery and how to make your recovery easier.
Prep Your Home
One of the most important tasks to do in the weeks leading up to surgery is to make your home as comfortable and recovery friendly as possible.
You won’t be able to bend over for a while, so remove anything off the floor that you think you may need such as footwear and clothing. Place them in a dresser drawer or another easily accessible area that’s off the ground. That goes for personal care items, reading material, and anything else you’ll want access to.
Kitchen items that are stored close to the ground such as pantry food products, pots, and pans should be moved to a higher location. Refrigerated food should be placed at a comfortable level.
Throw rugs can be a safety hazard as they’re easy to trip over. Roll them up and store them so they’re out of the way. Place non-slips mats in the shower and bathtub.
You may want to prepare or purchase meals that be easily defrosted and heated up if you don’t want to deal with cooking after surgery.
Keep your cordless or mobile phone next to your bed for easy access. If your home has more than one story, try to confine what you need on one floor if possible.
Managing your needs after surgery will be easier if you have assistance. You won’t be able to drive yourself home when you’re discharged from the hospital, so make arrangements to have someone dependable drop you off and take you home.
You’ll require a helping hand to do cleaning, run errands, or take you to your post-op appointments until you’re fully mobile and able to drive. Arrange for a friend, family member, or professional care to visit and help you until recovery is complete.
Just Before the Spinal Fusion Surgery
Depending upon your particular medical condition, your doctor may advise that you be fitted with a cervical collar or lumbar brace to help with the recovery. This is usually done in the months or weeks leading up to the surgery.
Your home may need to be equipped with a toilet seat extender, walker, and long-handled reacher to make going about your daily routine a little easier.
You may be required to undergo a blood test, electrocardiogram (EKG), and chest X-ray prior to surgery.
If you’re physically active, you should keep up with the regular exercise or activity until you have the surgery. Maintaining a healthy weight and exercising regularly can keep circulation healthy which can even help prevent post-op risks such as blood clots.
Some patients experience constipation after back surgery. You can help prevent this by eating foods high in fiber a week before the procedure and drinking plenty of water.
Your surgeon will most likely advise you to stop taking ibuprofen, aspirin, and naproxen about a week before the procedure. These medicines are nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. They can thin your blood too much, leading to complications.
Disclose to your surgeon all pills you take including over-the-counter medication and any herbal supplements. You may be instructed to stop taking certain prescriptions such as blood thinners until after surgery. You should abstain from drinking alcohol a week before the surgery date, as it can also thin the blood.
If you smoke, you may be required to quit using all nicotine products a few months before surgery. Smoking can make healing longer and more difficult.
The Night Before Surgery
Expect a call from the hospital with final instructions the night before your operation. You won’t be able to eat or drink anything after midnight the evening before your surgery, even if it’s taking place later the following day. Even water is not permitted after midnight.
You’ll need to bathe with an anti-bacterial soap and you may be required to take an enema. Remove all jewelry including wedding bands and other rings the night before, as swelling in the morning may make them difficult to slip off.
The Day of Surgery
You’ll meet with a nurse who will ask questions about your medical background as well as the anesthesiologist who will walk you through the sedation process.
Remove all jewelry including wedding bands and other rings the night before. On the morning of your surgery, you’ll be asked to remove any jewelry, dentures, hairpieces, contact lenses, and artificial limbs.
Bring a supply of your own toiletries and clothing including slippers to the hospital with you to make your stay more comfortable.
Recovery and Coming Home
Most spinal fusion surgery patients stay in the hospital between two and five days. Hospital staff will assess you to make sure you can take care of your personal hygiene and walk the hallway without assistance before you are discharged. Light physical activity is often an important part of your at-home recovery from back surgery.
The hospital will give you careful instructions on how to care for your dressing and any warning signs to be aware of.
When someone takes you home, you should be reclining in the front seat or lying down in the back.
At home, follow these seven must-have tips for recovering from spinal fusion surgery.
Be Prepared For Your Spinal Fusion Surgery
Now that you know what to expect for your spinal fusion surgery, you can better prepare yourself and your home for the procedure.
At Executive Spine Surgery, we specialize in a full range of surgical procedures and treat many back conditions that include bone spurs, bulging discs, and arthritis of the spine. To learn if you’re a candidate for back surgery, book an appointment with us online.