Most people stay just one night in the hospital. You will be able to walk as soon as you feel up to it after surgery. You will wake up with a rigid cervical collar on. You will generally wear the collar for a period of 4 to 10 weeks afterwards.
You should wear your cervical collar most all of the time except to shower and eat for the first 3 weeks until we see you back in the office. We will discuss how much longer to wear the collar at the three week postoperative visit. You should walk frequently when you get home. Avoid any heavy lifting (>10-15 pounds) for the first 10 weeks following surgery Do not drive if you are taking narcotics. You must be able to drive with the collar on and be comfortable using rearview mirrors. Returning to work depends on the type of job that you do. We will address that issue for you on an individual basis. Most people will have some degree of temporary swallowing difficulty after surgery. You should start with a softer food diet initially. Most people by around 3-4 weeks can eat whatever they like.
You can shower at 48 hours. Do not submerge the incision in a bathtub or pool until we examine your wound at your 3 week visit. You do not need to keep the wound(s) covered unless you find the brace or pants rub against the incision. You have “sterile super glue” on your incision it will likely begin to peel off by itself after about 2 weeks. Do not pick at it or scratch it. There is no need to apply any type of ointments to it.
As your pain lessens, you should decrease the amount of pain medication you are taking. We suggest that you substitute the narcotics with over-the-counter Tylenol as your pain level decreases. If you had a fusion, do not take anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen (Advil®), naproxen (Aleve®) meloxicam (Mobic) or Celebrex for 3 months as they are known to inhibit bone healing.
Contact our office the first business day after discharge from the hospital to make your first post-operative visit 3 weeks after surgery. We typically will see patients at 3 and 10 weeks postoperatively for x-rays and evaluation, then periodically after that. Please do not hesitate to contact our office with any concerns or questions. 208-367-3500.
Reminders For Patients Who Had a Fusion
If you had a fusion, your diet should contain 1,000-1,500 mg of calcium daily to optimize conditions for adequate fusion. If you are not getting enough calcium in your diet, you should take 1,500 mg of oral calcium every day. Please check with your primary care physician if you have a history of kidney stones. Do NOT take anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen (Advil), or naproxen (Aleve) as they are known to inhibit bone healing. Do NOT smoke or use other tobacco products for at least 3 months (ideally quit altogether) since nicotine inhibits wound and bone healing. Use of products containing nicotine significantly increases your risk for wound and fusion complications.