Preoperative and Discharge Instructions for Cervical Fusion

Peer Reviewed
These discharge instructions are printed with permission from Todd J. Albert, M.D. of the Rothman Institute at Thomas Jefferson University. Discharge instructions and recommendations may vary per institution, be sure to ask your doctor.  

Doctor with Elderly Female PatientYou have undergone, or are soon to undergo, fusion of your cervical spine. This is a moderately large surgical procedure and will require a moderately long recovery period. You should expect a hospitalization length between 2 and 3 days. Pain control will initially begin with "IV" pain medications and change to oral medications when you can tolerate them. It may be a day or two before will be able to eat regular food. Plan on being out of bed to a chair or walking on the day of surgery or the following day. You should expect some difficulty swallowing for a few weeks after surgery.

You may need to wear a brace for 6 to 12 weeks following surgery. In addition, you may need a period of outpatient physical therapy following your surgery. This usually begins 6 weeks after surgery.


1) Stop taking all aspirin and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (e.g. Advil, Naproxsyn, Relafen, etc.) one week before surgery.

2) Shower the night before surgery.

3) Do not eat after midnight, the night before surgery.

4) If you are allergic to iodine, shellfish, or any medications, tell the doctor or staff.

5) If you have any questions about other medications, ask the doctor or staff.


1) Use your prescribed pain medication, muscle relaxers, and laxatives as directed.

2) Wear your brace as directed.

3) If you have "Steri-Strips", these can be removed as they begin to peel off in several days.

4) If you have stitches or staples, these can be removed in 7 days (14 if this is a re-operation). The doctor's staff or your local doctor/visiting nurse can do this.

5) Do not soak your incision in water for 7 days. You can shower in 4 to 5 days.

6) Do not do any heavy lifting for 3 months (i.e. nothing heavier than a carton of milk). After that you can gradually increase your lifting to normal. Walking is encouraged and bending can be done within the restrictions of your brace.

7) Schedule a return clinic visit for approximately 6 weeks after surgery.

8) Watch for signs of fever, chills, warmth, redness, or drainage from your incision. A slight amount is normal for a day or two following surgery.

To learn about Dr. Albert’s practice, click here.

Updated on: 10/18/16
Continue Reading
Pain Management Center
Christopher P. Silveri, MD, FAAOS
The above "instructions" are general guidelines used to educate patients after certain spinal procedures. Although these specifically relate to the patients at Thomas Jefferson University, they remain useful to our SpineUniverse audience and serve as examples as to what one might expect at other institutions. Please discuss these issues and topics with your treating surgeon as the instructions may vary considerably.
Continue Reading:

Pain Management Center

The Pain Management Center on SpineUniverse helps you understand various pain management treatments and techniques. Learn about spinal pumps, spinal cord stimulation, and other treatments pain management specialists use to help chronic pain sufferers find pain relief.
Read More