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What should I expect the day of my spinal surgery?

Day of Surgery

This is the big day, the day your spinal surgery will be performed and your back condition – be it facet arthrosis or lumbar radiculopathy – gets effective treatment. You’ve had your pre-operative appointment a day or so ago, and had your pre-operative physical assessment and other pre-operative workup. You’ve also met with an anesthesiologist team member to talk about your anesthesia.

Of course you’ve followed your orthopedic surgeon’s directions for the night before your back surgery. You didn’t eat or drink anything after midnight. You’ve consulted with your doctor about medications you are taking, and you’ve complied with all your physician’s directives. You prepared whatever you will bring with you last night, so you don’t feel rushed in getting to the facility at the appointed time. If there’s a keepsake that’s important that you want to bring with you – a ring for example – leave it at home.

If your family is coming with you, you already know where the waiting area is – they’ve probably seen it themselves – and you don’t have to worry about them. The staff will make sure they’re kept informed and comfortable. Following the surgery you will be taken to a recovery room. Much of what happens after the surgery – whether performed for a pinched nerve or an injury of the spinal cord – depends on factors including the severity of your condition, the effort you put into your post-operative physical therapy, and the surgical treatment you selected. Today advanced spine treatments are providing new options with better outcomes for some spinal surgery patients. Not all orthopedic surgeons are familiar with fully approved advanced surgical options such as the TOPS™ (Total Posterior Solution) System. TOPS is an approved implant that provides clinically proven superior outcomes to spinal fusion back surgery after spinal decompression therapy has been performed. Moreover, the spine’s natural range of motion is preserved with the TOPS System, unlike a spinal fusion procedure, which eliminates independent motion of the joined vertebrae, and can lead to deterioration of the adjacent vertebrae.

What’s most important to remember about your day of surgery, is all the care and thought you, your surgeon and your loved ones put into determining the best course of action. You’ve prepared, gotten ready, and now you’re finally moving forward! Congratulations!

Post Op Day 1

Day after surgery

You had your back surgery operation yesterday. The day after a lumbar laminectomy, spinal decompression, or other back surgery is likely going to be quite disorienting. You will still be feeling the effects of the anesthesia that knocked you out during your surgery. You’ve probably been given medication to numb the nerves in the area where the surgery was performed. You are, as they say, feeling no pain. Some patients are taken to the ICU, or Intensive Care Unit, from the recovery room, for overnight observation following back surgery. Often, this is planned beforehand, and the patient understands the reasons for this cautionary approach. The patient in ICU may be intubated – that is, have a tube inserted in your throat connected to a respirator that will assist breathing, but will not permit talking.

The day after your back surgery operation a nurse or physical therapist will help you begin your recovery, assist you in sitting on the side of the bed and possibly help you to sit in a chair. It’s not uncommon to need a walker to get across the room. The amount of disorientation on the first day after surgery will be most influenced by the type and extent of the surgery. The more extensive the back surgery, the greater the damage to peripheral and collateral tissue, and the more need for sedating pain medications that render the day after surgery a blur.

Fortunately, today many spinal conditions that previously required open back surgery can now be treated with microsurgical techniques and minimally invasive procedures. These include spinal stenosis, slipped disc and even spinal cord injury. And second generation spine procedures are providing superior outcomes for many spinal problems caused by the natural deterioration of the spin due to age, or by traumatic injury or disease. The TOPS™ (Total Posterior Solution) System, which  provides better clinical outcomes than spinal fusion back surgery following spinal decompression therapy, is one example of these advances. Make sure you work with a spine surgeon who is familiar with, and experienced in advanced spinal surgery procedures, to ensure you get the best care possible. That will help ensure your Post Op Day 1 is the first day of a smooth recovery period!

Recognizing and Preventing Post-Surgical Complications

Spinal Surgery

With advanced procedures performed by highly trained and experienced surgeons, spinal surgery today boasts highly successful outcomes. Yet complications can and do occur during the recovery process after surgery. The spinal surgery patient serves as the first line of defense, taking an active role in managing his or her recovery.

Infection is one post-operative risk. Infections occur in about one to two percent of patients who have back surgery. You will be prescribed antibiotics as part of your recovery regimen, and instructed in how to care for your surgical incision. It’s important to carefully follow all of your physician’s directives to minimize the chances of infection occurring.

Pneumonia is another post-surgery risk. Again, taking an active role in your recovery is the best way to avoid this or other respiratory problems. Post-operative respiratory difficulties are exacerbated by inactivity and shallow breathing. The sooner you get up and about, the less chance of post-operative pneumonia.

In spinal fusion back surgery, on rare occasions the bone graft doesn’t heal properly, called “failure of fusion.” Spine fusion surgery is typically performed to stabilize the spine following the treatment of spinal stenosis, pinched nerves and other conditions by spinal decompression surgery. The chances of failure of fusion occurring are greatly increased for smokers, or by nicotine use of any kind, including nicotine patches. Such is the concern about the impact on spinal fusions that some hospitals check the urine of patients prior to surgery to ensure that they have no nicotine by-products in their systems. Another complication of spinal fusion is that it has been shown to promote the degeneration of adjacent vertebrae. Today the TOPS (Total Posterior Solution) System provides an alternative to spinal fusion performed in conjunction with spinal decompression therapy. The TOPS System has been proven in clinical studies conducted around the world to provide better clinical outcomes and few complications than spinal fusion. The more you know about the surgical options available to you, the more you can minimize your chances of post-surgical complications.

What is Claudication?


Its name sounds complex, but the condition is very basic: Claudication is a pain, typically in the legs, caused by too little blood flow through the blood vessels during exercise. Claudication can affect the arms as well as the legs. At first the pain is only noticeable when exercising, but as the condition progresses, the pain can be present even when at rest. It is a symptom of, most commonly, peripheral artery disease, a treatable circulatory problem.

The pain is felt in areas where of artery narrowing or damage, and may present first in the feet, calves, thighs, hips or buttocks. The pain may come and go in tandem with the intensity of the exercise. As the condition progresses, claudication may occur when sitting or lying down.  If the blood flow is severely compromised, toes or fingers may appear blue and feel cold to the touch. Sores may also develop as a result of reduced blood flow that would otherwise nourish the skin and flush toxins and infectious agents. Claudication may also cause a burning or aching sensation.

Spinal stenosis, an unnatural narrowing of the spinal canal, can cause claudication, though sometimes the back connection is missed in the initial diagnosis. Claudication can be treated through therapies ranging from healthy changes in lifestyle to vascular surgery performed on blood vessels. Spinal stenosis with claudication can be treated as well. Spinal decompression surgery can relieve pressure on nerve roots emanating from the spine, relieving the spinal claudicationSpinal decompression therapycan also be performed on a variety of spinal conditions that can cause pain and restrict mobility, like spondylolisthesis. Following decompression, the TOPS (Total Posterior Solution), an implant device, can stabilize the spine while preserving the full range of independent motion of each vertebrae. Before TOPS was available, patients were resigned to spinal fusion back surgery after decompression, a procedure that eliminates independent motion of the fused vertebrae, and that can contribute to spinal deterioration of adjacent vertebrae. Whatever the name of the spinal condition, make sure you get all the information about its treatment available.