Discharge Instructions for Anterior Cervical Fusions with Instrumentation

Peer Reviewed

doctor and surgeon consulting patientThese 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.

1. You will be given a soft cervical collar to wear postoperatively. You must wear the soft collar at all times until seen in the office for your first post-operative visit. The collar may be removed, however, for showering and eating.

2. You may shower as normal once the large, bulky bandages are removed from your incisions. If they are not removed before your discharge from the hospital, you may remove them 36-48 hours after your surgery. Hair washing is permissible while in the shower. Please refrain from using bathtubs, hot tubs or whirlpools until seen in the office.

3. You have unlimited walking and chair climbing privileges. Walking outside (in nice weather only) or walking on a treadmill (no incline) is also allowed.

4. Please make sure your incisions are checked at least twice daily for signs and symptoms of infection: Drainage from incisional site. Opening of incisions. Fevers greater than 101.5 degrees. Flu-like symptoms. Increased redness and/or tenderness. If any of the above should occur, please call the office.

5. You may sleep in any position, which makes you comfortable as long as your collar is securely in place. Many patients find comfort sleeping in a recliner chair. It is not abnormal to have difficulty sleeping for the first several weeks following your surgery. We recommend trying Benadryl or Tylenol PM (both are over the counter drugs at the drugstore).

6. It is normal to have a sore throat and some difficulty swallowing solid foods. This may persist for several weeks. Eating soft foods like yogurt, macaroni and mashed potatoes seem to help.

7. Do NOT take any anti-inflammatory medication (Advil, Aleve, Motrin) for the first six weeks following your surgery. If you feel you do not need your pain medication, you may use regular or extra-strength Tylenol.

8. Do NOT lift anything weighing greater than 10-15 lbs. Especially try to avoid lifting or reaching above your head.

9. If you have staples or sutures in your incision they may be removed 2 weeks following your surgery. This may be done by a visiting nurse, family physician or by making an appointment to come into the office.

10. To help alleviate persistent soreness around the bone graft site or between the shoulder blades, apply ice or warm moist compresses. It is normal for draft discomfort to persist for several weeks following your surgery. The best thing is to keep walking and strengthen the hip muscle.

11. You may NOT drive a car until told otherwise by your physician (usually at your first office visit). You may be a passenger for short distances (20-30 minutes). If you must take a longer trip, make sure to make several pit stops so that you can walk around and stretch your legs. Reclining the passenger seat seems to be the most comfortable position for most patients.

12. Make your follow-up appointment with your surgeon for 2 weeks following your surgery date.

Updated on: 02/23/17
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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.
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