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AFTERCARE FOR SPINAL SURGERY

WHEN SHOULD I TAKE THE DRESSINGS DOWN?

Dressings on your wound should remain intact for the first 72 hours. Avoid wetting it while you're having a shower. After this period, it is safe to remove the dressing and leave the wound exposed to air. Do not scrub or rub on the wound.

HOW SHOULD I CARE FOR MY WOUND?

Keep the wound as dry as possible in the first 7 days following the surgery. Your dressing is waterproof. It is safe to shower as normal. If the dressing becomes wet, pat dry the wound and apply a clean dressing. 


You may gently remove your dressing 7 days after your operation, but do not remove any steri-strips under the dressing; they will fall off when ready. Our nursing staff will give you a spare dressing before discharge. 


Avoid swimming, spas and baths, typically for 4 weeks, until your wound has completely healed.

Any increasing wound pain or swelling, or any evidence of redness, heat, discharge, fluid leakage, wound breakdown, or signs of infection, should be urgently reported to Associate Professor Lai’s rooms or your local doctor. 

CAN I USE ICE PACKS TO PLACE ON THE WOUND?

Icepacks can be gently applied to the suture line to help reduce swelling and bruising. Ice should always be wrapped in a small towel or in a zip locked bag and not applied directly to the suture line as this may cause some damage to the skin due to the decrease of sensitivity  and the swelling from the procedure.

WHEN SHOULD MY WOUND SUTURE/CLIPS BE REMOVED?

It is likely that your wound has been closed with a self-dissolvable suture and removal of sutures is therefore not necessary. Please check with the hospital nurses before your discharge if this is the case.


Occasionally, your wound may be closed with staples (to reinforce the wound edges). In this instance, it is necessary to book an appointment to see your local doctor for removal the staples on day 7. You will be supplied with a clip remover, to give to your GP in such case.

IS IT NORMAL TO FEEL TIRED FOLLOWING MY SPINAL SURGERY?

Fatigue following spinal surgery is common. The reasons for fatigue are unclear but may be attributable to general anaesthesia, surgical trauma, your baseline (pre-surgery) fitness, any postoperative complications, or medications.

It has been observed that most patients experience extreme fatigue in the first two weeks following surgery. Over time, fatigue will gradually improve, and most patients recover to baseline at around 6 to 8 weeks following the surgery. 

ARE THERE ANY RESTRICTIONS FOLLOWING MY SPINAL SURGERY?

Avoid heavy lifting for 3 months. When confident, only lift objects that you find comfortable and easy to manage. Avoid straining. 
If lifting, keep your back straight. Avoid bending and twisting, bend your knees and use your legs to do the work. 
Back care exercises may be helpful - use your symptoms as a guide. Do not persist if there is no obvious benefit.

WHAT SORT OF ACTIVITIES AM I ALLOWED TO DO?

Prolonged bed rest after spinal surgery is NOT required nor recommended. Gradually return to a normal pattern of daily life over 2 to 4 weeks. 

It is safe to move and position yourself accordingly to comfort immediately after surgery. Walking is the key to your recovery. Begin your walking program as advised by staff, typically on the day of surgery. Start with short frequent walks. Aim to progress to a total of an hour a day, spread over several walks, by 2 to 4 weeks after the surgery. 

It is safe to sit as soon as you are advised you can get out of bed after surgery. Start with short periods of time and build up according to how you are feeling. 

It is safe to walk up and down stairs as soon as you feel confident to do so. Practise with staff before going home. 

It is safe to travel by car immediately after discharge from hospital. Prolonged sitting may temporarily make you sore, so manage trip time accordingly. If travelling long distances, consider stopping for short walks. 

You may drive when you feel ready. 

WHAT ABOUT MY MEDICATIONS?

You may be prescribed pain and anti-inflammatory medications. Please take only the pain relief medication that has been prescribed for you and slowly wean yourself off this medication over several weeks. 
Be aware that some opioid pain relief medications can cause constipation, so avoid straining. Take some over-the-counter laxative if constipated.

IS THERE ANYTHING I CAN DO TO OPTIMISE MY RECOVERY?

Healing is influenced by a number of factors from genetics to your overall health to your ability to follow the important post-operative instructions. 

Getting adequate sleep and getting adequate rest can help your healing; So be sure you allow adequate recovery and resting after your procedure. 

Avoid smoking as it impairs healing. 

Stay hydrated (drink plenty of water) and eat nutritious meals. Consuming fresh fruit and vegetables and maintain a balanced diet before and after your surgery ensures your body is receiving the vitamins and nutrients it needs to aid recovery. 

WHEN CAN I RESUME WORK?

Work resumption is variable depending on the type of work that you do, the level of activity required when you return to work, your postoperative fatigue, and any outstanding issues from the surgery. It is expected you will need to be off work for at least 2 weeks. If your work is physically strenuous and a light duty assignment is not available, you may need to be off work for up to 6 weeks. Most patients return to work in a part time capacity and build up gradually. Associate Professor Lai will advise you when it is safe to return to work and will discuss this at your 6-week post-operative review.

WHEN IS MY REVIEW APPOINTMENT WITH ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR LAI?

A follow up appointment will be automatically made six to eight weeks following your surgery with Associate Professor Lai. If you have not been given an appointment, please contact our rooms directly to make one.

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