After your spine surgery, you will awaken in the intensive care unit (ICU) recovery room where the nursing staff will monitor your condition, evaluate your ability to move, and review any sensations in your legs.   

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After Your Spine Surgery

You will awaken in the intensive care unit (ICU) recovery room, where the nursing staff will monitor your condition, evaluate your ability to move, and review any sensations in your legs. Patients may feel groggy, thirsty, and/or cold, and have a sore throat, which are all normal effects of surgery and anesthesia.
You will also have:

  • A monitor for your heart, blood pressure, and breathing
  • An IV-type catheter in your wrist to monitor your blood pressure
  • An IV in your neck to give you fluids and medication
  • A catheter (tube) to drain your bladder
  • Boots or special stockings on your legs to help prevent blood clots
  • A drain coming from your incision

At first, you will consume only clear liquids and ice chips. Typically, patients are able to return to a regular diet within one to two days, after their normal bowel function returns. You will stay in the intensive care unit for one to two days depending on your rate of recovery before being transferred to a regular hospital room.

The night after your surgery, don’t expect to get too much sleep. Surgery, anesthesia, and pain medications may disrupt your wake/sleep cycle and cause you to get only two to three hours of sleep that first night.

After Your Spine Surgery Woman Patient in hospital bed

After your ICU stay you will recover in your hospital room.

The Incision

Your incision will have a drain, which serves to remove extra fluid from the layers of tissue under your skin. This allows your physicians and nurses to monitor wound healing. The tube will get removed when the drainage has slowed, typically after two to seven days.

Walking After Surgery

Walking is the best thing that you can do after surgery; bed rest is not good for you. The sooner you get up, walk and resume normal activities, the less chance you have of developing a blood clot in your legs. Walking also helps with pain and the return of normal digestive function.

Let us know immediately if you develop symptoms of a blood clot, which include:

  • Swelling, redness, and pain in your calves. A physical therapist will help you walk after surgery.

Walking goals are typically:

  • Day 1: Walk from the bed to the chair
  • For day 2: Walk out of the room
  • On day 3: Walk as tolerated

The physical therapist will also show you the proper techniques to turn over in bed.  They will also show you how to get in and out of bed, and walk independently in the halls. You will also have visits from occupational therapists.  They will help you with the activities of daily living such as feeding, bathing, grooming, and functioning independently.

Pain Management

After your operation, you will likely be hooked up to a PCA device (patient-controlled anesthesia), which allows patients to push a button and receive a dose of pain medication. Over the course of your hospital stay, you will transition off the PCA and onto regular oral pain medication, which you will continue when you go home or to an inpatient rehabilitation facility.

Unfortunately, everyone experiences some degree of pain and muscle spasms after spinal surgery. For some, this is worse than for others. In most cases, we will not be able to take away all of the pain associated with a large surgery. The goal of using pain medication as part of your treatment plan is to improve your ability to participate in rehabilitation. It is not uncommon for patients to have a few weeks of considerable pain before they notice some improvement.

X-ray Follow-up

Before you leave the hospital, X-rays of your spine will take place. You will then have X-rays taken in your physician’s office six weeks after surgery to evaluate the progress of your alignment and healing.
If you or a loved one suffers from spinal pain, you owe it to yourself to call Southwest Scoliosis and Spine Institute at 214-556-0555 to make an appointment.