A Patients' Guide to Outpatient Surgery

What Happens After Outpatient Spine Surgery?

Immediately following your outpatient spine surgery, you will be moved to a recovery room where you will wake up from the anesthesia and a nurse will continue monitoring your vital signs. Tracking your vital (life) signs is one way nurses evaluate the status of your body functions and includes pulse rate, temperature, respiration rate, blood pressure, and pain level.

Happy Doctors watching over a patient in the recovery roomThe amount of time it takes to wake up from anesthesia depends on many factors. Photo Source: 123RF.com.

Waking Up from Anesthesia

The amount of time it takes to wake up from anesthesia depends on many factors, including your body’s metabolism, the type of anesthesia, and the length of time the anesthesia was administered during surgery.

Patients are up and walking (if only for a short walk) within hours after outpatient spine surgery. Nurses assist you in your first few “trips” out of bed.

You may feel nauseous from the anesthesia and may even vomit after surgery. This feeling will go away as the anesthesia wears off.

Pain Management

Pain control is among the top priorities following an outpatient spine surgery procedure. It is normal to have some pain after any spine surgery. Many patients experience pain due to inflammation, muscle spasms and/or achiness. Pain and related symptoms may be localized to and around the incision site. General discomfort can be caused by body positioning while lying on the surgical table. These symptoms will dissipate during the early stages of recovery.  

Pain control immediately after surgery and when discharged home is important to your surgeon, as he/she recognizes that pain may slow your ability to be active. Gradually increasing your level of activity is also important to reducing pain and healing. Therefore, your surgeon will discuss pain control options with you (eg, oral medication) and make sure that before you leave the outpatient spine surgery center, your pain under control.

Discharge Instructions

When your surgeon clears you to leave the outpatient spine surgery center, you are given instructions on how to care for yourself at home. This includes written instructions on what medications to take and when, bathing, spine precautions, incision care, bracing (if needed), and when to follow-up with your surgeon.

Spine precautions may include activity restrictions such as not to climb stairs, bend or twist at the waist, or lift more than 5 pounds. The activity restrictions often depend on the type of spine surgery you underwent.

Be sure to follow the discharge instructions carefully. Keep in mind, the amount of time it takes to return to normal activities is different for every patient. Maintaining a healthy attitude, a well-balanced diet, and getting plenty of rest can also shorten recovery time.

Driving Home

Make plans to have someone drive you home from the outpatient spine surgery center. If needed, the outpatient center staff can make arrangements with a transportation service.

Although your surgeon’s discharge instructions cover driving, it is important to understand that you cannot drive for at least the first 24 hours following spine surgery. Driving restrictions may include not driving/operating machinery (eg, car) when taking opioid medications or other medications that can make you sleepy.

Plan ahead—have someone stay with you during the first day or two after surgery.

Updated on: 08/06/19
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10 Tips for Recovering at Home after Outpatient Spine Surgery
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