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Post-Operative Plan: How to Ensure Your Neurosurgical Success

Male doctor showing female patient a model of the spine to demonstrate postoperative care

While surgery remains the most important component of your treatment approach, your post-operative actions will affect the overall outcome a significant amount as well. An essential part of ensuring a desirable outcome is making sure the recovery from surgery goes just as smoothly as the surgery itself. With that being said, if you are considering or have recently had spinal surgery, you will want to create a post-operative plan to ensure your neurosurgical success.

Perhaps the first step to developing a post-operative plan is to understand the rationale for taking such measures. Depending on the type of spinal surgery, there will most likely be some kind of spinal fusion. Spinal fusion is a process that places a bone graft that will eventually allow two parts of the vertebrae to grow together. The key thing to note here is that spinal fusion is a process that takes about three months for the bones to heal and harden. In the meantime, screws, cages, plates, or rods may have been placed during the surgery to keep the spine stable during recovery.

Due to the delicate nature of this recovery process, certain guidelines must be followed during the postoperative period so that maximum healing can occur. Immediately after surgery, there will most likely be a hospital stay ranging from one to five days. However, this does vary depending on the type of procedure you have. During this immediate recovery period, the primary goal is to get the patient walking on their own before being sent home.

Once discharged from the hospital, postoperative care is up to the patient. Without nurses to regulate their behaviors and medications, the patient must become responsible for these tasks themselves. A few things patients will need to do in the following weeks after surgery are: take all medications as recommended, keep the incision area clean, follow the specific restriction of activity, start physical therapy, schedule your follow-up appointment, and avoid harmful activities, such as: smoking, driving, lifting heavy things, swimming, or using a hot tub.

Another part of your postoperative plan is discussing pain management options with your doctor before the surgery. There are various pain management options, including nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, non-opioid analgesics, opioids, local anesthetics, and non-medication options. You will first need to discuss which pain medication works for you, and then you can look further into non-medication pain management options.

These options include various physical coping techniques that will help you regulate your pain in a physical manner. They include how to cough without hurting yourself, deep breathing and relaxation exercises, and body mechanic techniques, such as walking. In addition, non-medication pain management can also encompass hot and/or cold therapy, massage, stretching, and relaxation techniques.

Finally, you will want to realize that your activity level will be decreased over the next few months as you recover, so you will want to prepare accordingly. Make arrangements for someone to help you with tasks that require heavy lifting, bending, squatting, extended periods of sitting, or those that cause pushing or pulling. Remember, your spine needs time to heal and these activities can jeopardize your ability to heal correctly.

Creating a postoperative plan is essential in recovery from spinal surgery. The actions after spine surgery can either help or hinder you, and a postoperative plan ensures they will provide you with the former. If you are interested in discussing postoperative plans further or in more specific terms with your particular treatment, book a consultation with Dr. Wilson today!

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