Your surgeon may recommend few specific post-operative instructions following spinal surgery. You should follow the instructions of the surgeon to aid in faster recovery with optimum results. The duration of hospitalization depends on the treatment rendered. The period of your rest or inactivity depends on a few factors such as the type of surgical procedure and the approach used to access your spine, the size of the incision and presence of any complications. Return to work or normal activity depends on the type of work or activity you plan to perform.
The instructions that you should follow after your surgery are as follows:
- Take medications as recommended by your doctor
- Keep your incision area clean and dry to promote wound healing
- Avoid smoking, driving, lifting heavy things, swimming or using a hot tub
- Follow the specific restriction of activity, as advised
- Start physical therapy as instructed by your doctor
- Schedule your follow up appointment with your doctor as advised.
- Report any infections to your surgeon. Surgery cannot be performed until all infections have cleared up
Please consult your doctor immediately if you experience fever over 101° F or if the incision site shows signs of infection such as pain, redness, swelling, or increased drainage from the incision.
Possible Complications of Spinal Surgeries
Possible complications may occur before surgery, during surgery and after surgery.
The most serious complication of a herniated disc that may occur before surgery is the development of the cauda equine syndrome. It occurs when a large particle of disc material is ruptured into the spinal canal. It occurs in the area where the nerves that control the bowels and bladder travel before they leave the spine. This causes pressure on these nerves resulting in permanent damage. Bowel and bladder controlling ability is lost. If this problem occurs surgery could be recommended immediately to try to remove the pressure from the nerves.
Complications during surgery occur due to anesthesia given during any type of surgery. Possible complications that can occur during removal of a herniated disc may include injury to the nerves and a dual tear. There is a risk of injuring the spinal cord leading to nerve damage that causes paralysis. Tear in the dura mater covering the spinal cord may occur.
Sometimes complications may take some months to become evident after surgery and may include:
- Persistent Pain
- Degenerative Disc Disease
Any surgical procedure has a risk of developing infection. Infection may occur in the skin incision, inside the disc or in the spinal canal around the nerves. If infection involves the skin incision antibiotics may be needed, and if infection involves the spinal canal, a secondary operation may be required to drain the infection. Antibiotics may be required to treat the infection after the second operation.
In 10 to 15 % cases re-herniation occurs during first six weeks after surgery. It can occur at any time and may require a second operation.
Occasionally surgical procedure does not completely eliminate the pain. Pain may persist due to several reasons. Disc herniation may put pressure against the spinal nerves causing nerve damage thus resulting in pain along the nerve. Scar tissue may form around the nerves few weeks after the operation, causing pain similar to the pain before the operation.
Degeneration of the spinal segment can result from injury to the disc. A disc that has undergone operation has definitely been injured. Additional problems may develop in the area where a disc has been removed. If pain from the degenerative process becomes severe a second operation may be required. Several years may be needed to develop degenerative disc disease.