You’ve completed the physical exam and tests and it’s been determined that your best option is spinal fusion surgery. A life without the intensity of pain or other symptoms is now within your reach.
Whether you’re from Trenton, Tom’s River or even New York City, spinal fusion surgery in NJ isn’t something that you should have to travel far to complete. Finding an experienced surgeon close to home will allow you to concentrate on working towards your recovery.
Choosing a Surgeon for Spinal Fusion Surgery
The most important element in the successful outcome of a spinal fusion surgery is finding an experienced neurosurgeon. It’s preferable to find someone that has performed numerous spinal fusions and has an excellent track record.
It may benefit you to make appointments for a consultation with more than one doctor. A second (or third, or even fourth) opinion is always a valuable experience to help you find the right surgeon. You should feel completely comfortable with the doctor you choose to perform your spinal fusion surgery in NJ.
Be sure to ask any prospective surgeon comprehensive questions. These can include questions such as the following.
- How long has he or she been in practice?
- What is his or her specialization?
- How many spinal fusion surgeries has he or she performed?
- Which insurance plans does the practice accept?
These questions should cover anything that comes to mind that will make the decision-making process easier. Once you’ve chosen your spinal surgeon, you can schedule a surgery date.
There are many things you can do to help yourself (and your doctor) prepare for your upcoming spinal fusion surgery.
- Testing and Diagnostics. Have any tests or diagnostics your spinal fusion surgeon orders. From blood work to MRIs, the results will give your doctor a much better view of the big picture and help them (and your anesthesiologist) create a personalized surgical plan for you.
- Quit Smoking. Smoking can delay or even impair healing of a spinal fusion. If you’re a smoker, discuss a cessation plan with your doctor to ensure that you aren’t smoking by the time you have your surgery and that you are not likely to start again (especially for the duration of your healing and recovery).
- Make Post-Op Arrangements. It’s vital that you make arrangements to have adequate help when you return home from the hospital. Daily chores and activities such as showering or doing the dishes can be taxing and place unwanted stress on the surgical site. If you have children or pets, make sure you have extra help, as well.
The Day of Surgery
On the day of your surgery, you will need to check in to the surgical center or hospital. It is helpful to get there early to sign paperwork or have any lab work done.
Once you’ve checked in you’ll be taken to a pre-operative area. Here you’ll be prepped for surgery. This involves changing from your own clothing into a clean gown and hat.
At this point, a nurse will also place an intravenous catheter. This allows the administration of fluids, your anesthesia drugs and some pain medications. Spinal fusion surgery is usually done under general anesthesia, which means that you will be completely asleep while your doctor operates.
You can expect to have a consultation with your anesthesiologist to discuss any drug reactions you might have had in the past. This also affords you the opportunity to ask plenty of questions about the anesthesia itself.
Once you’ve been put under anesthesia and taken to the operating room, you will receive the final prep for your surgery. The area(s) in which the incisions will be made will be scrubbed with antiseptic to help prevent the possibility of infection.
Using what are known as minimally invasive or less invasive techniques, your doctor will make one or more small incisions through which the spine surgery is performed. Your surgeon may use navigation or fluoroscopy to ensure any implant is precisely in its intended location.
In addition to a spinal fusion, you may require some type of decompressive surgery as well. Vertebral bones, ligaments and disc herniations can all squeeze nerve roots causing radiating pain and even weakness. All this issues will be addressed during your surgery.
The fusion surgery itself is used to “bridge” two or more vertebrae together, creating a solid column of bone. This is done using bone grafts from your own bone tissue, an allograft, which is bone tissue from a donor, or even synthetic grafts that create a scaffolding for the new bone tissue to grow into.
In most cases, you may require what’s known as instrumentation. This may consist of rods, screws or plates. These implants help to stabilize the vertebral bones until fusion occurs.
Once your surgery is completed your surgeon will close the incisions and you’ll be moved to a special recovery area. Here you will be closely monitored until you wake up. Once you’re stable, you’ll be moved to a room for the remainder of your hospital stay.
You can expect to stay in the hospital anywhere from 1 – 5 days, depending on the complexity and extent of your surgery. During this time you’ll be transitioned from intravenous to oral medications.
The first day you will be asked to get up and walk. This will become an important part of your recovery regimen, as walking helps to increase blood flow and provide nourishing blood and oxygen to your healing tissues.
Weeks One & Two
When you arrive home, you’ll need to get plenty of rest. You’ll probably feel more tired than usual; this is normal, as your body is recovering from the surgery. To ensure a speedy recovery, try the following tips.
- Be sure to eat a well-balanced diet. Tissue repair requires a wide range of nutrients.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Gentle walks a few times a day will help with circulation. You don’t have to go very far or make it strenuous.
You may be required to wear bracing of some type for the first week or two. This could be a cervical collar if you’ve undergone neck surgery, or a brace to stabilize your torso in the case of a back surgery.
Weeks Three through Five
When you are past the two-week mark, you should be feeling more like your old self. If you work in a low-impact job, you should be able to return to work.
Physical therapy, if prescribed, may start at this point. Be sure to attend all of your sessions to ensure you get the best results possible. Your activity level will increase and the list of restrictions continue to shorten as you progress through your recovery.
Week Six and On
Typically, by week six, you’ll start to feel like your usual self again. If you work in a high-impact job, your doctor may clear you to return to work. As with any surgery, it’s essential to continue with any follow-ups or physical therapy.
When you’re seeking the best spinal fusion surgery in the Northeast, NJ is a great place to start your search. Dozens of qualified surgeons serve the NJ and NY areas, making it easier than ever to find the right spinal fusion surgery doctor.