How to Prepare for Spine Surgery

This is not a passive event. Unless it is just around the corner, to just wait for your surgery to take place is a mistake. A fit and more conditioned patient recovers faster and has fewer complications. Any regular preoperative cardiovascular exercise like using a stationary bike or elliptical (raising the heart rate, even modestly) will help with recovery.

Even though surgery is designed to reduce the pain you’re in, try to reduce the amount of pain medication taken before surgery. It will make pain control easier postoperatively.

Prepare for the postoperative period. Have some easy to make meals handy. Take up cords or carpets that can cause a trip and fall. An elevated toilet seat or a shower-tub seat can be helpful although the occupational therapist you will see in the hospital after the operation will assist with procurement of those items.

Stop smoking!!! Smoking reduces the chance of healing significantly and if a fusion is involved with surgery, this will reduce the chances of success by 25%!!

Stop taking natural supplements 10 days prior to surgery. Many supplements can interfere with blood clotting and make surgery more dangerous. This includes Ginko Biloba, Ginsing, St John’s Wort and others.

Stop taking aspirin products and NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatories) like motrin or aleve 10 days prior to surgery. These can impair blood clotting.

If you are on a blood thinner like Coumadin- you must alert the surgeon. Surgery cannot normally be performed on a patient who is taking Coumadin without great risks.

Make sure your family doctor knows about your impending surgery. He or she will be very helpful in the post-operative period for simple incision checks up to control of blood pressure or diagnosis of potential problems.

If you have had a recommendation for blood donation prior to surgery, this can normally be done at a  local, neighborhood hospital that has blood donation facilities and then shipped to our Medical Center. It normally takes a week per unit and many patients are recommended to donate two units. Blood donation is normally requested for lumbar fusion surgery and deformity surgery.

What Supplements Can I Take to Heal Faster?

A common question is what supplements can I take to heal faster? The answer if you are of normal health is no. What impairs healing are disease processes like diabetes, malnutrition, alcoholism and smoking. Diabetes under good medical control, cessation of drinking significant amounts of alcohol and stopping smoking are the answers. It might be helpful to take a protein supplement like “boost” or “ensure/ enrich” during the first week or so after surgery if you don’t have a good appetite.

Of course- in general because of our deficient diets, most individuals should be taking 1500 mg. of calcium per day in a “sugar” or chelated form. Some over the counter calcium tablets are made of calcium oxilate which is a mineral form from oyster shells and is harder to absorb. The sugar attached to calcium (calcium lactate, gluconate or succinate) makes it easier to absorb. 400 IU of Vitamin D should also be taken unless you are out in the sun on a daily basis. Magnesium should also be taken with calcium at a rate of one-half of the calcium. (If you take 1500mg of calcium, you should be taking 750mg of magnesium). Many suppliments have all three nutrients in one or two tablets.

As far as food intake – stop 8 hours prior to surgery. Try not to drink anything, but if you must, only sips of water are acceptable up until 2 hours prior to check-in. This means plain coffee or water. Sugar or especially cream in the coffee makes it a food so this can’t be consumed for 8 hours prior to surgery. If you need to take pills, the ones to take and the ones to avoid will be discussed with you during the anesthesia preoperative meeting. Pills need to be taken only with a small sip of water and at least 2 hours prior to surgery.

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