Regardless of how much surgical techniques have improved over the years, spinal fusion is still major surgery. For this reason, patients tend to have a more productive experience with their procedure when they take time to prepare for their surgery. Consider the following recommendations while making your preparations:
If you haven’t done so already, schedule another appointment before your surgery date specifically to ask questions. It’s easy to overlook concerns during the initial discussion when other things are likely going through your mind. Make sure you have a solid understanding of:
• What condition you have (with spinal stenosis and scoliosis being common reasons for a fusion) and why surgery is necessary to correct it
• Whether or not all possible conservative spine treatments (NSAIDs, physical therapy) have been exhausted
• How your surgery will be performed (some newer procedures involve access to the spine from the side rather than the back to avoid stress on supporting muscles)
Sometime within the month before your fusion surgery you’ll need to undergo a physical exam to ensure that there are no underlying conditions that may complicate your procedure. During the exam, ensure your doctor has your complete medical history, including any instances of allergic reactions to medications and any conditions you may not have disclosed previously.
If you smoke or drink, even casually, you’ll be asked to stop such activities until after your recovery. Alcohol and some of the chemicals in nicotine may interfere with your anesthesia and some of the medications you’ll likely be given immediately after your surgery.
You may have to stop taking some of your medications shortly before surgery, depending on how they’re likely to interact with the anesthesia and any drugs you’ll be given following your operation. You’ll also be instructed to avoid blood thinners, including aspirin, to reduce the risk of excessive bleeding during surgery.
It’s a good idea to take care of any arrangements for home care that you’ll likely need before you go into your spine surgery. Realize that you’ll likely be limited in your movements, so consider having a part-time professional caregiver or a family member around to take care of the cleaning and other household chores.
You’ll also be able to order any medications you’ll need following your fusion surgery in advance. This eliminates the risk of being without pain relievers once you’re released from the hospital. By making as many preparations in advance as possible, you’ll be able to focus more on your recovery.
For more information about spinal fusion surgery or to request an in-person consultation for a second opinion, call (310) 828-7757.