If spine surgery is in your future, take comfort in knowing Santa Monica spine surgeons typically take every possible precaution to prevent infections during the healing and recovery process. Surgical site infection (SSI), where foreign bodies get into the wound location, is what often comes to mind when thinking about spinal infections. However, it’s also possible for patient-controlled factors to play a role in infection-related issues. There are some steps you can take to reduce your risk of experiencing spinal infections before and after surgery.
Pre-Surgery Infection Prevention
The human body has remarkable natural capabilities to fight infections. Even so, it sometimes needs a helping hand to be prepared for anything that could require the immune system to kick into high gear, which is why it’s best to make efforts to boost your overall health before surgery if you want to increase your odds of seeing a positive, infection-free outcome. Here’s what you can do:
- Kick the smoking habit – If you’re one of the 37 million Americans who smoke cigarettes on a regular basis, making an effort to quit prior to your surgery can help you maintain the flow of nutrients your body needs to heal.
- Provide updates on other conditions you have – Even if your surgeon knows you have diabetes, sleep apnea, or chronic high blood pressure, he or she will be better prepared if updated on how well you are managing those conditions.
- Adjust your diet – Berries, leafy greens like broccoli, spinach, and kale, and spices like ginger and turmeric are among the foods and spices that can help your body naturally ward off infections.
- Exercise as much as you can – It may seem counterproductive to exercise when you are getting ready to have spine surgery, but even little things like daily stretching and gentle exercises like walking can increase circulation and stimulate the production of beneficial hormones.
- Shower before your procedure – Oftentimes, patients are encouraged to use antibacterial soap and arrive freshly bathed or showered on the day of their surgery. Doing so can reduce infection risk by minimizing the amount of microorganisms on your skin.
Post-Surgery Infection Prevention
During your procedure and immediately after, your surgeon and the support staff will take steps to prevent spinal infections at a time when your body is most susceptible to foreign invaders. However, when you get home you’ll need to take some additional precautions to keep the healing process on track. These are some of the things you can do to prevent post-surgery infections:
- Stick to a healthy diet – It may be tempting to turn to comfort foods as you heal, but overindulging could make it difficult for your body to keep up a strong defense against infections.
- Ask friends and family to practice good sanitation habits – Minimize the risk of germ transfer by asking people regularly around you or those preparing your meals or caring for you to regularly wash their hands.
- Follow post-surgery wound care guidelines – Your surgeon will provide specific directions about when to change dressings and how to safely clean the wound site. Carefully follow these instructions and let your surgeon or designated contact person know if there’s anything you’re not clear on.
- Contact your surgeon or doctor if you spot signs of infection – Expanding redness around the surgical site, unusual or discolored drainage, warmth around the incision site, visible swelling or tenderness, fever, and an increase in pain are among the signs of infection to be on the lookout for as you recover.
Infection rates associated with spine-related procedures range anywhere from just under 1 percent to 16 percent. If an infection does develop post-surgery, treatment usually involves long-term antibiotics. Surgery is sometimes necessary if there’s damage to tissue and other internal issues. Follow-up care normally involves various blood tests, including white blood cell counts, to ensure all signs of infection are gone.
Always make sure to take the necessary steps to prevent infection before or after surgery, whether you’re having a decompression procedure, artificial disc replacement, or ACDF. Santa Monica patients who want to find effective relief should reach out to Dr. Hyun Bae at The Spine Institute. Call 310-828-7757 today to schedule an appointment.