After Your Operation

Following a Post-Surgery Routine Will Help Patients Heal and Regain Strength

After surgery you will go to the post-anesthesia care unit (PACU). You will be there for about two hours. Your parents or two family members will be able to visit you in the PACU. When you go to your hospital room, you will start a regular routine that your nurses will explain to you and help you with.

This routine consists of the following:

  • Your nurses will turn you in bed every two hours so you will not become stiff and sore from lying in one position. You will switch between lying on your back and your sides.
  • You will do simple leg exercises to keep your muscles in tone. Your nurse will show you how to do these exercises before surgery, and will remind you when you need to do them.
  • You will be shown how to do breathing exercises using a device called an incentive spirometer. This will help you take deep breaths and keep your lungs clear.
  • Your nurse will take your vital signs (temperature, pulse, respiration and blood pressure) every two hours. All of the above – turning, leg and breathing exercises and taking your vital signs – will take place about every two hours for several days after your surgery. Please be sure to let your nurses know how you are feeling. Remember, they are there to help you.

Spine surgery is a long operation, and every part of your body will have been asleep. Until you are drinking well and eating, an IV (fluids by vein) will give you all the nourishment you need.

2 to 3 Days Post-Surgery

Two to three days after surgery, you may experience what we call a “mood swing.” Although you are healing and feeling better, your body and emotions will be reacting to the surgery. You may have feelings that you cannot explain – some people get cranky, others may feel sad and want to cry. This mood swing usually lasts a day or two and means that you are on the road to recovery.

Your family can be with you as much as you like. The pain medicine you will be given after surgery will make you sleepy, so you may not feel like seeing friends.

The first day after your surgery you will begin getting out of bed. At first your legs will feel weak and a little wobbly. Within a short time, your strength will return and you will be able to walk around by yourself.

By the third day you will be able to eat regular foods, go to the bathroom by yourself and manage without too much help. This is when it is time to go home.

Returning Home

Once you are home, you can gradually return to normal activities. You will not need special care during this period, but as with any surgery, it will take time to get all your strength back. Begin doing things slowly, and rest when you become tired. Feeling tired is normal – nap if you want to, but do not stay in bed all day. Your body needs activity to get back into shape and lying around is not good for you. Increasing your activity not only helps to heal your back, but it also makes you feel better. Plan on returning to school about two weeks after you leave the hospital. If you work, you will probably be able to return to work a month after your surgery. Your doctor and nurses will give you specific instructions about physical activities and will also tell you what you can and cannot do.

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