You will have incisional pain postoperatively. The first night we will have you on a PCA machine (Patient Controlled Analgesia) where you press a button to self-administer IV pain medication until you tolerate oral medications. You will have a Foley (bladder) catheter which will get removed the next day once you are able to stand up to walk to the bathroom. Most people stay in the hospital for 2 or 3 nights. Older patients or those needing multiple-level fusion surgery may stay longer. Physical Therapy will work with you while in the hospital to mobilize walking and mobility.
Avoid excessive bending, twisting, pushing, pulling, or lifting anything more than 15 pounds for the first 10 weeks We encourage you to take short but frequent walks, 4-5 times a day. On average patients will be walking about a ½ mile total each day when they are about 3 weeks out. This is important to help prevent blood clots, mobilize your back muscles and help stimulate your bowels in case you are constipated. If you need to pick something up from ground level, squat and keep your back straight If you were fitted with a brace, please wear it when you are active. You may remove it at night to sleep, for showers/baths, driving, and when you are relatively inactive around the house. Returning to work depends on your type of job that you do. We can address that issue for you if needed. Do not drive if you are taking narcotics.
You may shower after 48 to 72 hours. Do not submerge the incision in a bathtub until we examine your wound at your 3 week visit. You do not need to keep the wound covered unless you find the brace or your shirt/pants rub against it. 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 your incision.
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.