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Patient Discharge Instructions: Non-Fusion Spine Surgery

Your surgeon has written the following discharge instructions for you. Please take the time to review these instructions prior to leaving the hospital. We will be happy to answer any questions you may have.

First Follow-Up Appointment

You should have a follow-up appointment already made at the time of your hospital discharge. If not, please contact our office at (920) 882-8200 or toll free (888) 231-5236 as soon as possible so an appointment can be made.

Incision Care

Your incision may be closed with sutures or Steri-Strips. The dressings should be removed on your first or second post-operative day. If drainage persists, you may apply a light dressing and change it daily. Your incision can otherwise remain uncovered since dressings can trap moisture, which may lead to infection. Unless instructed to do so, do not apply any antibiotic ointments or antiseptics on the incision. Do not pull at Steri-Strips or sutures. They will be removed at your follow up visit in 7-14 days. If you have Steri-Strips they may fall off on their own in 7-10 days or will be removed at your postop appointment. You may shower but avoid swimming or other activities that would involve submerging the incision under water until it is well healed (2-3 weeks).

Cryo-Cuff Cooling Device or Standard Ice Packs

You may have been given a special device to help you apply cold to your back following surgery. Whether you have a special device or not, we recommend that you apply ice or a cold pack at least 20 minutes every few hours for the first 48 hours while awake. It is used to decrease inflammation and relieve pain. You will find cold application helpful if you do it regularly in the first 1-3 weeks.

Pain Medication

You will be given a prescription for pain medication such as Percocet (oxycodone/acetaminophen) or Vicodin (hydrocodone/acetaminophen). Please use this as directed by your provider for moderate to severe pain. Narcotic pain medication can cause constipation, dizziness, nausea, headache and decreased energy. Use the narcotic pain pills only when needed, as the goal is to discontinue them as soon as possible.

For mild to moderate pain you may take Tylenol (acetaminophen) 325-1000 mg every 4-6 hours, as needed. Please note that Tylenol is often a component of some common narcotic and non-narcotic pain relievers. Tylenol from all sources should not exceed 3000mg in 24 hours when used on a daily basis. Older people or those with kidney or liver impairment may be advised to take lower doses of Tylenol. To prevent constipation caused by narcotics, drink 6-8 glasses of water per day and eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. If needed, an over the counter stool softener or laxative can be purchased. If you continue to have trouble with constipation, contact your primary health care provider for further instructions.

NSAIDS such as Advil (Ibuprofen), and Aleve (Naproxen) may be used in conjunction with pain medications to help with pain control. Low dose aspirin prescribed for your heart may be approved. Check with your surgeon.

Any need for prescription refills should be addressed with our office during regular business hours by calling (920) 882-8200 or toll free at (888) 231-5236. Some pain medications such as oxycodone require a written prescription. In that case, a refill cannot be phoned to the pharmacy so the prescription will need to be picked up at the office or mailed. Please allow enough time for that process. Please remember we do not refill narcotics after day-time office hours, or after noon on Fridays. Please give us 24 hours to have the script ready for pick up from the front desk.

Diet

You should eat light foods right after surgery to decrease the chance of nausea from the anesthesia.

Bathing

You may shower on the second postoperative day but avoid baths, hot tubs or swimming pools until incision is well healed (2-3 weeks).

Driving

You should not drive while taking narcotic pain medication because it may impair your ability to drive safely. You may otherwise resume driving when you feel safe and comfortable doing so. If you are being discharged with an external bone stimulator, you will be given specific instructions regarding its use and a contact number should you have any questions.

Activity and Exercise

Let pain be your guide. This is not time to catch up on household chores or do heavy labor. Your surgeon may or may not restrict your activity but pain may slow you down initially. Sitting for prolonged periods of time may cause discomfort, so it is best to change positions regularly. Walking for exercise is encouraged. Stair climbing is permitted. You may sleep in any position you find comfortable. Water exercise may be appropriate but only after the incision is completely healed (2-3 weeks). Resume sexual activity when you are comfortable doing so.

Smoking

We have counseled you on the importance of avoiding all forms of nicotine as it may interfere with your fusion and the success of your surgery. Each year more than 430,000 deaths in the United States are attributed to tobacco related illness. If you smoke or chew tobacco, we strongly encourage you to stop. If you would like more information on this topic, please ask us.

General Anesthesia

You should not drive a vehicle, operate machinery/other appliances, sign any legal documents or drink alcohol for the next 24 hours. A responsible adult needs to oversee your care today. A light diet is recommended to reduce nausea related anesthesia.

Please call us if you develop:

  1. A fever of 101° F or more
  2. Redness/swelling/foul drainage at your surgical site.
  3. You develop increased neurological symptoms (confusion, weakness, numbness, tingling, etc.).
  4. Adverse response to your medications.
  5. You have other questions.