What to Expect after Your Lumbar Fusion
A lumbar fusion is a surgery done on your lower spine. It helps to stabilize your spine by healing or fusing the bones. The doctor may use your own bone for this. Bone from a bone bank might be needed as well. Special hardware like rods, screws, or mesh cages could be used to strengthen the spine. The goal is for new bone to grow at the fusion site so that this part of the spine is stronger. There are different types of fusion surgeries. Your doctor will discuss what might be best for you
Things to Remember
- Do not sit for long periods of time.
- If you are wearing a brace you will have specific instructions for wearing it. Most often, you will only wear your brace when you are out of bed. You and a family member will be taught how to put the brace on and take it off. You will not be able to put your brace on by yourself. You do need someone to help you. You will be able to sleep with your brace off, either in a side-lying position or by lying on your back. You should not lie on your stomach. You may be more comfortable using pillows for support.
- You can climb stairs. Use a handrail, and have someone with you. You will need to be careful not to overdo it.
- Slowly increase the amount of walking you do. Sit for short periods of time only. Standing, walking, or lying down are going to be your best positions in the first weeks.
- No lifting over 10 pounds. No bending. No twisting.
- No pushing as in vacuuming.
When you go home, narcotic pain medicine may be prescribed for you. As your pain improves, you will need to decrease the amount of narcotic pain medicine. Instead try plain Tylenol® or Extra Strength Tylenol®. Follow the directions on the bottle. Do not exceed 4000mg per day. Keep in mind that your narcotic pain medicine may contain Tylenol® or acetaminophen. You should not take any non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicines for six weeks after the fusion.
Examples of these medicines are:
Ibuprofen Aleve® Naproxen® aspirin
Advil® Naprosyn Celebrex®
Taking these will slow down the healing process. After six weeks, you can start taking these medicines for pain relief. Your pain should lessen after surgery. All pain medicines should be taken with food and at least 8 ounces of water.
What to Do for Constipation
Do not take any fiber or stool softener on the morning of surgery.
You may begin taking a stool softener two days before surgery. Take docusate with senna with at least 8 ounces of water. This will help to prevent constipation.
When you are ready to go home, you may take docusate with senna twice a day while you are on the narcotic pain pills. If you do not have a bowel movement two days after surgery or beyond your normal routine, take Milk of Magnesia® (6 teaspoons two to three times a day) until you have a bowel movement. Use food like prunes or prune juice instead of the Milk of Magnesia®. Be sure to drink 6 to 8 (8- ounce) glasses of water or juice daily so that your body has enough fluids with the medicine.
If you have stitches, they will need to be removed in 2-3 weeks at your follow-up visit. Your incision should be cleaned daily with mild soap and water. Avoid being exposed to the sun. Do not use tanning beds.
If you have dissolvable sutures, your incision should also be cleaned daily with mild soap and water. Your return to clinic will be approximately 4 weeks after surgery
If you are wearing a hard plastic brace (TLSO), you will need to shower with your brace on. If you are in a soft brace (ELSO), you will not need to wear it to shower. Shower with some plastic wrap taped over your incision for the first 5 days. It should be kept clean and dry. After your shower, pat your incision dry.
Call your doctor if you notice any signs of infection.
- Increased redness, swelling, or any drainage
- Increased pain that does not go away with pain medicine
- Fever greater than 100° F for two readings taken four hours apart
Do not drive until you are no longer on pain medicines and you feel comfortable to do so. If you are wearing a brace, you should talk to your doctor before driving.
Ask your doctor when it would be safe for you to resume your sex life.
You may need to be off work for up to 12 weeks. It may be more or less time. This depends on the physical demands of your job. You and your doctor should discuss when you should go back to work.
If you have any questions please call:
Please call the Neurosurgery Clinic at 608-263-7502 with any questions. After hours, this number will connect you with the paging operator. Ask for the neurosurgery resident on call. Leave your name and phone number with the area code. The doctor will call you back.
If you live out of the area, please call 1-800-323-8942 and ask for the Neurosurgery Clinic.
The information provided should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
Last Updated: 09/26/2013
Copyright © 09/26/2013 University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#5379
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