When you prepare yourself to undergo spine surgery you should also prepare for the recovery period after your procedure. To ensure a smooth and healthy recovery, it is important that you closely follow instructions from your surgical team.

Hospital recovery

Just prior to your procedure, we will insert an intravenous (IV) tube into your arm to provide your body with fluids. These fluids will make you feel swollen for the first few days after your procedure.

After the procedure, you will be moved to the recovery room or intensive care unit (ICU) for observation. When you awaken from anesthesia, you may be slightly disoriented and not know where you are. The nurses and doctors around you will tell you where you are and remind you that you have undergone surgery. As the anesthesia wears off, you will feel tired, and we will encourage you to rest.

A member of your surgical team may ask you to respond to some simple commands, such as “wiggle your fingers and toes” or “take deep breaths.” You will be lying on your back, which may seem surprising if you have had surgery on your back. You should know that lying on your back is not harmful to the surgical area.

You may feel the urge to urinate. So, in addition to the IV, we may place a catheter tube (also commonly called a Foley catheter) into your bladder to drain urine from your system. The catheter serves two purposes: (1) it permits the doctors and nurses to monitor how much urine your body is producing, and (2) it eliminates the need for you to get up and go to the bathroom. Once you are able to get up and move around, we will remove the catheter and you can use the bathroom normally.

Proper nutrition is an important factor in your recovery. During your hospital stay, you will get additional instructions from your nurses and other members of your surgical team regarding your diet and activity. Your spine specialist may restrict what you drink and eat, or place you on a special diet, depending on the approach used during your procedure. Some patients find that their physician orders a diet that is less restrictive than the diet they follow at home. After the spine surgery, you will receive intravenous fluids until you can tolerate regular liquids, which typically involves gradually transitioning you from sips of clear fluids to full liquids (including JELL-O®). We will then give you small amounts of solid food until you are ready to return to a regular diet.

In most cases, your surgeon will want you to get out of bed on the first or second day after your surgery. Nurses and physical therapists will assist you until you feel comfortable enough to get up and move around on your own.

Home recovery

Before discharging you from the hospital, your doctor and members of the hospital staff will give you additional instructions to follow at home – a list of “dos and don’ts,” which you will be asked to follow for the first 6 to 8 weeks of your home recovery. If you are unsure of any of these instructions, ask for clarification because following these instructions is crucial to your recovery.

When you are discharged you may still have a surgical dressing on your incision(s). A nurse will visit your home to change the dressing or a caregiver, such as one of your family members, will be taught to do it for you. It is important that the dressing be changed daily and kept dry. If you observe any signs of infection while changing your dressing, call your doctor. Infection signs include:

Call your doctor if you experience chills, nausea, vomiting, or you suffer any type of trauma (e.g., a fall or automobile accident).

We will also instruct you to keep your incision(s) clean and use only soap and water to cleanse the area. In general, you should not shower until your doctor allows you to do so. In addition to caring for your incision(s), you will also be encouraged to:

Avoid heavy lifting, climbing (including stairs), bending or twisting. You should also avoid using skin lotion near your incision(s). You need to keep this area dry until it has healed well. Follow up with your doctor on a regular basis during your recovery period, and make sure to call your doctor if you have any concerns or questions.

Our cervical spine patients come to us from Vernon, South Windsor, Manchester, Hartford, Bloomfield, Ellington and nearby locations.