Spine Surgery: PreOperative Questions
What kind of anesthesia will I need?
Generally there are three kinds of anesthesia: local, which numbs only part of your body for a short time; regional, which numbs a larger part of the body usually for a longer period of time; and general, which numbs the entire body and allows you to be unconscious for the entire surgery. General anesthesia is usually administered by an anesthesiologist (a doctor specially trained in giving anesthesia). You may also want to meet with your anesthesiologist before your surgery to talk about this aspect of the procedure.
What will happen when I arrive at the hospital?
Talk to your surgeon about the day of your surgery. Make sure you know where to go and what time you need to be there. Find out how long the procedure will take, where your family can wait and how long it will be before they can see you. Ask about who else will be in the operating room with you and when you will return to a regular room after the procedure. Knowing these pieces of information will help reduce any anxiety you may have on the day of your surgery.
How long will it take me to recover?
With most spinal surgeries, patients are up and walking (if only for a short walk) within hours after their procedure. It is no longer necessary, or recommended, that you lie in bed for weeks after spine surgery. However, talk to your surgeon about how long it will take you to return to normal activities. Ask your doctor about how much pain you should expect and how long it would last. What pain medications will you receive and how long will you need to take them? Keep in mind, recovery time is different for every patient. Discomfort should decrease a little each day. Increases in energy and activity are signs that recovery is going well.
How much will the operation cost?
Before your surgery, talk to your health insurance company to find out what is covered and what fees, if any, you will be responsible for. Better to know up front what you may have to pay for than be surprised after your surgery.
What do I need to know when I leave the hospital?
After your surgery, your doctor will give you specific instructions about how to continue your recovery at home. Ask your surgeon for written instructions that you can take with you. Most spine surgeries require a certain amount of bed rest even after you return home. Find out if and for how long you need to avoid certain activities such as driving, climbing stairs, bending, and exercising and if you will need assistance at home. Also, make sure you ask about when you need to see the surgeon again for a post-surgical follow-up visit.
Will I need physical therapy?
Most surgeons will prescribe physical therapy after spinal surgery. Ask you surgeon what type of therapy you will need and for how long. Physical therapy usually includes a combination of ice and heat therapy, gentle massage, stretching, and exercise to decrease pain and increase flexibility. Specific exercises will be determined by the physical therapist based on your specific needs.