Among the various spinal conditions that may warrant a fusion surgery, Spondylolisthesis is perhaps the most common. While many patients’ pain is due to this degeneration of the spine that causes arthritis, a fusion surgery could be recommended to address pain caused by anything from injury and infection to a spinal tumor or scoliosis.
What Does Spinal Decompression & Fusion Surgery Accomplish?
Spinal decompression and fusion surgery is a procedure by which a particular section of the spine is made to “weld” together. By allowing multiple vertebrae to fuse together, the amount of motion in certain areas of the spine can be reduced, therefore also reducing the level of inflammation and the patient’s pain. During this procedure, the problem area is cleaned out (decompression) and a bone graft is placed between the vertebrae that are meant to be combined (fusion). The actual fusing, however, does not occur until during the recovery from spinal fusion surgery. It is in the healing process that the bones actually grow together, very similarly to the way a fracture would naturally heal.
If you are scheduled for a spinal decompression and fusion procedure, you may be wondering what you can do to prepare for a quick recovery. Read on to learn some of our top tips for patients who want to take a proactive approach to the post-surgery healing process.
Tips for Getting On the Road to Recovery From Spinal Fusion Surgery with Decompression
Follow Instructions Before Surgery
Ultimately, a successful recovery begins with a successful surgery. And a successful surgery depends partly on your cooperation with and attentiveness to instructions. Your surgeon will probably give you a list of medications to avoid prior to your surgery and you will be asked not to eat or drink the morning of your procedure. Depending on your physician's preferences and the location of your surgery, there may be other logistical details and important instructions that you will receive beforehand. Be sure to follow these carefully!
Make Plans Ahead of Time
Don’t get caught the day before your surgery trying to make last minute plans. Work ahead to prepare things at home so that that the house will be comfortable and easily maneuverable for you when you get back. Plan to ask a friend or relative to drive you to the hospital and also have someone ready to pick you up upon discharge. Most importantly, be sure that you have arranged to have some extra help around the house for the weeks immediately following your procedure.
Follow Instructions After Surgery
Well, this may seem obvious, but it can’t be stressed enough! Your surgeon and his or her staff are the experts in the speciality field of spine health. Their instructions - and the restrictions that they recommend - are all in your best interest. Complete the postoperative exercises consistently and with good form. Be sure to prioritize any post-op appointments. Doing so will give you the best chance at having a smooth recovery from spinal fusion surgery.
To be more specific, it is highly recommended that spinal surgery patients cease using all Nicotine products (this includes smoking cessation products like gum or patches) prior to surgery. Nicotine interferes with the ability of bones to heal properly, which is an essential component to the fusion portion of any decompression and fusion procedure. Patients can put themselves in the best position for a successful surgery and a quicker recovery from spinal fusion surgery by preparing to stop smoking or using any other Nicotine products at least one month prior to their procedure. Also, refrain from using Nicotine for at least 6 weeks after the procedure.
Be On the Lookout
It’s important to be informed about possible complications during the recovery period following surgery. While such complications are certainly never expected, in a small number of cases, they do occur. That’s why all patients are encouraged to keep an eye on their incision for any signs of infection (redness, swelling, fever) and to talk in more detail with their surgeon about any other warning signs of potential problems.
If you are trying to prepare for your recovery from spinal fusion surgery (whether it be cervical fusion or lumbar), our best advice is to talk in detail with your surgeon. Write down all of your questions and plan to go through them together at your next appointment.
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