Whether spine surgery involves a minimally invasive procedure with smaller incisions or traditional open surgery with a larger incision to access the affected area, the surgical site will need to be taken care of properly as tissues heal. While spine surgeons take every possible precaution during an operation, it’s still important to be mindful of what’s going on with your wound as you recover and prepare to start your rehab process after back surgery. Los Angeles back doctors suggest keeping the following tips in mind as you care for your surgical site.
Properly Clean the Surgical Site
Initially, you may be told not to shower or to avoid getting the wound wet. However, it’s still important to keep the wound site clean. This is normally accomplished by using a sterile wipe to gently dab the surgical area when the dressing is changed. Also, gently dab away any drainage from the wound site before applying a new dressing.
Change Wound Coverings Regularly
You’ll be told to change the gauze or surgical dressing that covers your wound. This is usually done once or twice a day. Your doctor will let you know the specific frequency. You may be able to do this with a mirror behind you, but it’s better to seek help from a friend or family member if possible. Each time you change your dressing you should:
- Clean the wound site as directed
- Look for signs of infection
- Securely attach the new dressing with surgical tape
Look for Signs of Infection
Clearing drainage from a surgical site in small amounts is normal during the early stages of recovery. However, some type of drainage may also be a sign you have an infection. If you spot any abnormal drainage, contact your doctor, or go to an emergency room if you can’t get a hold of your doctor or a nurse. Signs of an infection may include:
- Yellowish discharge
- Expanding redness around the wound
- Unusual warmth around the surgical site
- Increasing tenderness or swelling
- Pain around the wound site
Don’t Scratch the Wound Site
During the healing process, your body naturally releases a substance called histamine, which triggers cell activity and promotes the development of new tissue that closes the wound. Histamine is a natural itch inducer. However, scratching may loosen your stitches or attract bacteria. If you are bothered by the itching, contact your doctor or ask your local pharmacist to recommend an appropriate topical cream that can be safely applied to the wound site.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions after you receive your post-surgery instructions from your surgeon or a nurse. If there are certain care directions you’re not sure about or if some part of your normal daily routine isn’t covered, contact your doctor for clarification. Also, make sure to report anything out of the ordinary, even if it seems like something minor, during scheduled follow-up visits.
At The Spine Institute Center for Spinal Restoration, we specialize in a wide array of traditional fusion and back fusion alternatives. Los Angeles residents who are seeking relief from their chronic back pain should contact The Spine Institute today. Call 310-828-7757 to schedule an in-person evaluation.