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What is on your mind?

If you need foraminal stenosis surgery, you are probably quite anxious to obtain relief from the pain that affects your neck or spine and prevents you from fully enjoying an active lifestyle. Patients who agree to undergo this surgery often have coped with the pain for many months and, for some, even years. They have found that medications and other treatments aren’t an adequate resolution for their problem.

Patients generally want their normal routines restored, instead of being sidelined frequently to deal with the pain and limitations that the condition imposes on their active lifestyles. Educating yourself about the expected recovery timeline of foraminal stenosis surgery is a realistic way to prepare for the procedure.

People who know more about the recuperative period of this minimally invasive procedure can make adequate plans for their jobs, family members, activities and other responsibilities.

Pre-Op Testing

Typically, about a week before you have foraminal stenosis surgery, you will need to have a pre-admission workup. You may have this done at the physician’s office or at the facility where you will have the surgery. This workup usually includes blood work, an EKG and any other tests that the doctor feels are appropriate.

The nurse or technician will also ask you for a list of medications that you take each day. Please be thorough in providing the list. It should include prescription and over-the-counter medications, vitamins, herbs and other types of supplements. This testing enables your surgeon to assess the risks of surgery based on your general overall health.

The nurse who administers the tests will usually give you pre-operative instructions to follow on the days just before and on the day of the surgery. He or she will instruct you on what medications to stop or continue to take before and on the day of the surgery.

Usually the ones that need to be stopped are those medicines that may thin your blood or prevent it from clotting properly. Generally, this visit takes less than two hours and you will not need anyone to drive you.

Day of the Surgery

Usually your surgical instructions will state that you can’t eat or drink anything after midnight the night before your surgery. If you need to take certain medications, swallow them with a minimal amount of water — just a sip or two should suffice.

Your instructions may say to arrive at the hospital or surgical facility quite early in the morning. If you live out of town, it may be advisable to get a hotel room the night before the procedure. This will help you get more rest, and also minimizes the risk of being delayed by any unforeseen issues, such as a traffic jam or road construction.

Once the Surgery Is Over

After two or three hours, the surgery will be over and you will be taken to a recovery room. Once you are awake and recovering from the anesthesia, you will go to a regular room. Soon, an aide will assist you in getting out of bed, and will help you sit in a nearby chair or walk around a bit. Most of the time, patients do this shortly after recovering from the anesthesia or, at most, within 24 hours.

The nurse will show you how to properly sit, stand up from a sitting position and ambulate without causing yourself unnecessary pain. He or she will tell you which activities to avoid between then and your post-op visit. Generally, patients return home on the same day of the foraminal stenosis surgery and are given pain medications to help relieve any discomfort. You must have a driver to transport you home.

The Post-Op Visit

Your surgeon will require you to come in for a post-op visit, so he or she can check the appearance of the wound, answer any questions you may have and assess your comfort level. Typically, this occurs anywhere from 10 days to three weeks after the procedure. Most patients are surprised at how much better they feel by the post-operative visit.

At this time, your pain level will probably only be mild to moderate. The doctor may suggest that you decrease your use of the narcotics, and start using other drugs or even over-the-counter medications to resolve any discomfort you may experience. The doctor will instruct you on ways to increase your activity level and discuss things that you should still avoid. Many patients can return to work if their job duties allow it.

A Few Weeks After the Surgery

After three or four weeks have passed, many patients can return, for the most part, to their normal activities. However, it is important to continue to avoid strenuous activities that cause too much movement in your spinal column. Such activities, like lifting heavy objects, twisting and participating in contact sports, should still be avoided. Your physician will advise you on when you can once again perform those types of movements.

After undergoing this minimally invasive spine surgery, most patients experience great relief from pain. The pressure felt due to the foraminal spinal stenosis is no longer present. Within two or three short months, you should be able to enjoy and participate in many activities that you thought would never again be a part of your life.

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