What to Expect After Spinal Fusion Surgery

For the first three days after your spinal surgery, you will be on a special bed that turns you continuously, this bed is called a Hill-Rom Sport bed. The turning is done very slowly and you will usually stay in each position for about 15 minutes. This can be adjusted according to your comfort level. The only thing you have to do when being turned is RELAX, and tell us how we can position you more comfortably. Turning keeps you from getting stiff and helps to prevent pressure on your skin which can cause sore spots and the changing of position also helps your lungs stay in good condition.

Your Diet

You may not feel like eating at first. The day of your surgery, your nurse and your family may keep offering you something "clear" to eat or drink such as water, apple juice, popsicles, Jello® or Gatorade®. Eating and drinking helps you regain your strength more quickly.

The next morning, you will begin to eat regular food. You may eat whatever you like from the cafeteria or from outside the hospital. It is important that you eat because the pain medication that you will take by mouth will cause stomach pain, nausea and vomiting if taken on an empty stomach.

In order to prevent constipation and dehydration, it is important that you drink lots of fluids while in the hospital and at home.

Sitting, Standing, and Walking

Immediately after your scoliosis surgery your nurses will be helping you with any necessary movement, but by the time you are ready to go home, you will be walking out the door. How can this happen in less than a week? Your physical therapist is the key. He or she is the person who will help you and your family learn the correct way to move in bed, as well as to sit and walk properly. Together, you and your physical therapist will set goals for moving in bed, sitting up and walking.

You will meet your physical therapist the day after your surgery. Your physical therapist will talk to you and your family about moving in bed, sitting, standing and walking. Your therapist will assist you in sitting up on the edge of the bed. You will sit for several minutes to become accustomed to the change in position. The therapist will then help you to stand. You will stand for a few minutes while holding on to something to stabilize yourself. Deep breathing is often helpful when standing for the first time after surgery as it helps to relax your body and keep you calm. Day two is also the day you will begin to walk. The therapist will hold on to you to help keep you steady as you take a few steps. Your therapist will not make you walk farther than you can, but will ask you to set a goal to walk a little farther each time you get out of bed.

You will be walking more each day and will be able to venture out of your room, walk around the nurses’ station, down the hall, to the activity room located on the third floor, or as far as you can go.

Because the physical therapist will only visit you once or twice a day, your nurse will often be the one helping you to do these things. Try to remember, the key to feeling better faster and returning home sooner, is to get out of bed and keep moving!

Once you are able to get out of bed and walk with the help of your family, you will be able to get up when you want to and soon will no longer need assistance each time you want to go for a walk.

Respiratory Therapy

It is important to keep your lungs healthy after surgery. When you return to your room after surgery, you will meet another important team member. The respiratory therapist will provide you with breathing treatments (medication you breathe in) to help you expand your lungs. Your nurse will also be reminding you to take deep breaths for several days after your surgery. You will be given a device called an incentive spirometer. This helps your lungs expand and keeps them clear and working at their best. You may get tired of everyone reminding you to use the spirometer. Please remember that it is important that you do as requested. Regular use of the spirometer is the best way to prevent fevers and avoid complications such as pneumonia.

The best way to make this an easier experience is to work together with the nurses, therapists, doctors and your family. Communicating with the care team will greatly benefit you and will help them take better care of you.