Patients will usually be kept overnight, at least, in hospital following an open back surgery procedure. This allows their progress to be monitored as the general anaesthetic wears off and to ensure they are comfortable and controlling post-surgical pain well. Patients who have undergone minimal access foraminotomy under a local anaesthetic are more likely to be released fairly swiftly after surgery to manage their recovery at home with assistance from family and friends. Most patients will be ambulatory one or two hours after surgery and this is encouraged so as to reduce the risks of thrombophlebitis.
Patients undergoing a cervical foraminotomy may be placed in a soft cervical collar to aid comfort after surgery, and those having lumbar spinal surgery may be given a brace or corset to wear temporarily. These support devices are usually not to be used for long after surgery as they can cause the muscles to atrophy and impede the recovery process. Patients will be advised as to activities to include, with gradual increases in gentle walking often prescribed and the avoidance of bending, twisting, or heavy lifting suggested. Patients are usually advised to refrain from driving for two weeks or so after back surgery, and to limit travel time as a passenger in a car to avoid stiffness occurring.
Follow Up Appointments
A follow-up appointment at approximately two weeks post-surgery is likely to be the point where restrictions on activities are lifted, including driving, sexual activity, and more vigorous exercise. Physical therapy can help patients achieve a prompt and successful recovery with strengthening and stretching exercises recommended to suit the patient’s circumstances. Light housework can be resumed after a month, and heavier work or more intense exercise should be avoided for two or three months after the operation. The sutures used in most procedures do not require a follow up visit for removal as they dissolve over time. Patients will, however, be monitored for the return of pain, or increase in severity, any muscle weakness or loss of condition with appropriate therapy prescribed in these cases. Any sign of infection, such as fever, wound tenderness, fluid seepage, or headaches and neck stiffness, should be reported immediately for investigation.
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