Spinal Fusion Surgery Recovery: A Guide to Healing
What is spinal fusion surgery?
Spinal fusion surgery is a common, routine procedure used to treat individuals with back pain and leg pain. These are neurological issues often related to compression of spinal nerves. After surgery, proper recovery is essential to improve your chances of a successful outcome.
In this article, we will provide you with a guide of what you can expect after surgery from the patient’s perspective.
How long will I be in the hospital after fusion surgery?
Your hospital stay after spinal fusion surgery depends on the type and extent of the procedure.
For minimally invasive surgeries, it will likely be shorter, typically just one to two days. Open surgeries may require a longer stay, often up to five days. Very large surgeries may also require a stay in an in-patient rehabilitation facility.
During your hospital stay, your healthcare team will keep an eye on your medical condition, provide pain medications, and teach you how to take care of yourself post operatively.
Pain Relief and Pain Medications
Pain management is a key part of spinal fusion recovery. While you’re in the hospital, your medical team will establish a pain medication regimen that you will continue at home.
It’s crucial to take these medications as directed and communicate any concerns or side effects with your medical team. Proper pain management will facilitate your mobility after surgery, which is essential for healing and preventing complications.
Signs of Infection and Keeping the Surgical Site Clean
In the immediate days after surgery, you should be vigilant for signs of infection. These include things such as:
- Drainage around the incision site
Most wounds do not require active care but monitoring the wound and keeping it clean and dry after bathing is essential. You should carefully follow your surgeon’s instructions regarding caring for the wound.
When can I shower after spinal fusion surgery?
You can usually shower 1-3 days after surgery but immersing the wound in a bath or a pool is not allowed until your surgeon explicitly permits it. You should immediately inform your doctor if you notice any indications of infection.
Strenuous Activity and Physical Therapy
Engaging in strenuous activities shortly after spinal fusion surgery can seriously jeopardize your recovery. Avoid heavy lifting, bending, or twisting during the initial weeks or months, depending on your surgeon’s recommendations. You may also need to wear a brace to promote good posture if your doctor recommends it.
Instead, focus on gradually increasing your activity levels through sitting and standing as well as walking. In the hospital, physical therapists will show you how to do this, and provide exercises to strengthen your back and promote healing
Will I need physical therapy after spinal fusion?
In the first few weeks after discharge, physical therapy usually has a role only if you are really having a hard time getting up and moving about your home.
If you can manage on your own or with the help of family, a physical therapy program may not be needed until several weeks or even months after surgery has taken place.
Blood Clot Risk
Another concern during spinal fusion recovery is the risk of blood clots. Prolonged periods of inactivity can increase this risk.
At a minimum, get up and walk around your home several times a day. If you experience symptoms like leg swelling, pain, or shortness of breath, contact your doctor immediately.
Bone Graft and Healing Process
Bone grafting is a crucial part of spinal fusion surgery. It involves placing bone graft material between two or more vertebrae to promote a bridge of bone connecting them together.
This process is called a “fusion.” There are many options for this material including your own bone, cadaver bone, and other biologically active materials that are made in laboratories.
The healing process requires time, typically taking several months.
During this period, the bone graft will slowly fuse with your existing bone, providing stability to the spine. Growing bone likes stability and pressure.
Therefore, activities that involve twisting, bending, and stretching are to be avoided until your surgeon permits them.
Recovering from spinal fusion surgery is a step-by-step journey. It’s all about taking good care of yourself, following your doctor’s advice, and being patient.
If you or a loved one are considering spinal fusion surgery, contact our office today to schedule a consultation with one of our expert spinal surgeons!
With the right care and support, you’ll be on your way to feeling better and getting back to your everyday life.
Dr. Alfred T. Ogden is an accomplished neurosurgeon in North Jersey and is a proud member of Neurosurgeons of New Jersey, practicing out of their Ridgewood office conveniently located on East Ridgewood Avenue. Dr. Ogden is internationally recognized as a leader in minimally invasive spine surgery.