Whether you’re having spine surgery to address chronic back or neck pain or to remove a problematic tumor, taking time to prepare for your procedure as well as your post-surgical recovery period can improve your experience and outcome.
While you can expect to receive detailed discharge instructions along with prescriptions for necessities, such as pain medication and physical therapy, the practical steps you take to prepare yourself ahead of your operation can help ensure a smoother healing process at home.
Fellowship-trained neurosurgeon Jose Valerio, MD, is an expert in spinal surgery. His practice has locations in South Miami, Hialeah, and Weston, Florida. In this blog, he offers a list of essential steps and measures that can help you prepare for spinal surgery.
1. Learn about your procedure
Learning as much as possible about the procedure you’re about to have can go a long way in helping you manage your expectations as you recover. Knowing what to anticipate each step of the way — from the anesthesia and the planned surgical technique to the recovery room and beyond — can help reduce anxiety and minimize frustration.
To that end, Dr. Valerio does his best to educate you on what to expect before, during, and after your surgery, answering any questions and addressing any concerns you may have at any point along the way.
2. Have a pre-operative checkup
As with any major operation, you must obtain full medical clearance before you can undergo spine surgery. Within 30 days of your procedure, you’ll need to schedule a physical exam with your primary care physician and provide a complete health history, including a review of any medications and supplements you use.
Your medical team will tell you which medications and supplements you can continue taking leading up to and through your surgery, and which you should temporarily discontinue using until after your procedure.
Depending on your age and general health status, your pre-operative checkup may also include a urinalysis, blood work, chest X-ray, and EKG testing. If you see a cardiologist or any other type of specialist, you may need to obtain medical clearance from them as well.
3. Support optimal health prior to surgery
If you’re preparing to have spine surgery, there’s a good chance you experience chronic back or neck pain on a routine basis. Even if that pain has made you less active than you once were, it’s important to be as active as comfortably possible in the time leading up to your procedure.
You should also strive to eat wholesome, nutritious foods, manage your daily stress levels, and get plenty of sleep every night in the weeks before your operation. If you smoke or use any other form of tobacco, take steps to quit (or get help) as soon as possible. Nicotine can increase your risk of infection during surgery and interfere with healing afterward.
Simply put, the healthier, fitter, stronger, and more rested you are before spine surgery, the easier your recovery will be after your procedure.
4. Consider donating blood for your surgery
While it’s not usually necessary to donate blood prior to spine surgery, there’s always a chance that some blood loss may occur during the procedure. Dr. Valerio can let you know the benefits and drawbacks of receiving your own blood or someone else’s.
If you decide to go ahead and donate blood because you have a rare blood type or local blood supplies are low, you may need to build up your blood with an iron supplement for a few weeks prior to surgery.
5. Prepare your home environment for recovery
There’s a lot you can do to make life easier — and facilitate a smoother recovery — when you come home from the hospital.
Enlist a designated helper
First, enlist a reliable person to assist with transportation, take you to your follow-up medical appointments, and run basic errands.
Keep high-use items in easy reach
Next, create a recovery zone, or a place you plan to spend most of your time in the early days of your recovery. Bring any items you use regularly into that room, and place them within easy reach — between waist and shoulder height — so you don’t have to bend, stretch, or twist to get them. Do the same with important items in your kitchen, bedroom, and bathroom.
Plan your meals in advance
It’s also helpful to stock up on foods you eat often and make a few easy-to-heat meals, so you don’t have to go shopping or cook for at least a week.
Make a few strategic investments
Investing in a toilet riser and slip-on shoes can make a world of difference in the early days. If you’re having a procedure that limits your movement, such as a spine or SI joint fusion, a handheld grabber can also be helpful.
To learn more about preparing for spine surgery, book an appointment over the phone with the practice of Jose Valerio, MD, today.