Spine Surgery FAQs

These are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about spine surgery by the patients we care for daily.


What kind of tests will I need before surgery?

  • Blood tests
  • Urine sample
  • Chest x-ray
  • Electrocardiogram (EKG)
  • Your medical specialists will need to see you to verify that you are healthy enough for surgery.

How long will I be in the hospital?

Most patients are hospitalized for 1-3 days, including the day of surgery. The length of your stay will depend on your procedure, insurance, and how well you progress after surgery. If you are not ready to be released to your home following your hospitalization, you may need additional treatment at an extended care facility. You should contact your health insurance provider to find out what exactly is covered and to obtain these provisions in writing.

What should I bring to the hospital on the day of my surgery?

  • Personal toiletries
  • Glasses and/or contact case
  • Comfortable, loose fitting clothing
  • Non-skid shoes and slippers
  • List of all allergies along with current medications and dosages
  • Any paperwork given to you from the doctor’s office
  • The back or neck brace fitted for you at your doctor visit
  • A button down shirt to wear home over your brace

Please do not bring valuables such as money, credit cards, jewelry or electronics.

How should I prepare myself for the surgery?

Prior to any surgery, prepare your body by drinking plenty of fluids and eating a well-balanced diet. Eating protein will promote healing and fiber and fluids will help you avoid constipation. The use of pain medications (narcotics) tends to slow the bowels and decreased activity and surgical pain will add to your discomfort. It may even delay your discharge. Plenty of rest is also important and a good night’s sleep prior to surgery is helpful.

Will my family physician be involved in my care?

Most surgeons include your primary care physician (PCP) in your care after surgery. Your PCP best knows your home medications and medical history and will probably already be advised and see you prior to your surgery. Be sure your medication list is updated and bring it with you. If your PCP does not come to see you in the hospital, then a hospitalist (the hospital physician) will attend to your medical needs until discharge.

Should I stop smoking before surgery?

It is best to stop your smoking or chewing of tobacco habit prior to your surgery. Talk with your family doctor about a program to help you stop smoking. Smoking reduces the amount of oxygen going to the discs in your spinal column.  This leads to bone breakdown and interferes with the spine’s ability to repair itself.

Hospital Stay

Can my family stay with me?

One or two members of your family can stay with you in the pre-operative area. Once you are in surgery, they will be told where to wait- usually the Surgical Waiting Pavilion. This is located on the second floor, down the hall from the gift shop and cafeteria. The doctor or a patient representative will come to this waiting area to report on the operation, its completion and the outcome to your family.

Going Home

When can I go home?

When you are discharged will depend on several factors, including:

  • Pain tolerance - You can only go home with oral medications.
  • Ability to eat - You must be able to tolerate food and drink without becoming nauseous.
  • Mobility - You must be able to move and get around safely.

Do I need someone to stay with me full-time when I go home?

It is best to have someone stay with you the first 24-72 hours after discharge. If you live alone, ask a friend or relative if they could stay with you for a few days or if you can stay with them. If you can’t arrange for full-time help, perhaps a friend, relative or neighbor can call and/or stop by daily to check on your progress. Home care may also be an option for you and can also be arranged through your social worker/case manager.

When can I go up and down stairs?

Immediately, but keep the trips to a minimum if you can. Try to prepare your home. If steps are a must, have upstairs things brought down to reduce the number of trips. Place commonly used items at waist level to prevent excess bending and reaching.

Will I need pain medication upon discharge?

Most patients return home with pain medication prescribed to last until the first follow-up visit. Depending on the extent of your condition, you may see a pain management physician prior to admission and surgery and return to their care upon discharge.