Home Care Instructions after Spinal Hardware Removal
This handout will review the care you need to follow once you are home. If you have any questions or concerns, please ask your nurse or doctor. Our staff is here to help you. If you have questions after you are at home, please call the numbers at the end of this handout.
Begin the walking program discussed by your doctor when you get home. Walking is important. Set a time to walk, at least twice each day. Let pain be your guide. As you get stronger, increase the distance you walk each day. You can climb stairs.
Day 1 (at home)
Walk 1 block in the morning and 1 block in the afternoon or evening.
After Day 1
Increase the distance you walk daily to your comfort level. You should be walking 1 to 2 miles per day when you return for your next visit.
- No driving while taking narcotic pain medicine.
- No lifting more than 10 lbs (about 1 gallon of milk) for the first 3 weeks.
- No sports except the walking program until your first clinic visit.
No sex for 1 week. After 1 week, you may resume sexual activity, if comfortable.
We strongly suggest you quit smoking, avoid tobacco products, and second hand smoke. Smoking will delay bone healing. It is best not to smoke for at least 4-6 months after surgery.
You may sit for any length of time based on your comfort level. You should change your position every 30 minutes.
You may shower 5 days after surgery. No tub baths for 2 weeks.
Sleep either on your side, stomach, or back. You may use pillows for support. Place pillows behind your legs when lying on your back. Place pillows behind your back and between your legs when lying on your side.
Compression Stockings (TEDS)
To improve blood flow and decrease the risk of getting a blood clot, you need to wear elastic stockings (TEDS) until you are walking and back to your normal activities. Remove the TEDS 2 times each day for one hour at a time. You should sleep with them on. You may wash the TEDS with soap and water. Let air dry.
Proper care of the incision helps to prevent infection.
- If you have a dressing, you may remove it when you are home.
- You can cover the incision with a dry dressing if this is more comfortable.
- Change the dressing every other day or as needed.
- Keep the incision clean and dry.
- The incision is closed with sutures under the skin and covered with steri-strips (small pieces of tape) on the skin. The steri-strips will slowly peel off as they get wet when you shower. You may gently remove them after 10 days.
- Check the incision daily to be sure it is clean and dry.
- Check for redness, swelling, or drainage. Some redness and swelling is normal.
- A small amount of clear or slightly blood tinged drainage from the incision is normal.
- Do not wash directly over the incision. Wash around the incision gently with soap and water and then let air dry.
- Do not use any creams, lotions, ointments, or alcohol near or on the incision.
Take your temperature twice a day for 10 days.
You may have an increase in pain and numbness in the low back and legs during the healing phase. This is normal and is caused by swelling of tissue in your low back. To reduce the pain, there are many options to try.
- Ice the area for 15-20 minutes as often as needed. Do not put the ice directly on the skin. Use a pre-made ice pack or put ice in a plastic bag then wrap the ice pack or bag in a towel before you use it.
- Do not sit more than 15 to 30 minutes at a time for the next 48 hours.
- Reduce your activity for the next 48 hours (i.e. walking).
- Take the pain medicine as prescribed by your doctor.
- Do not exceed 4000mg of acetaminophen per day. Percocet® and Vicodin® also contain Tylenol®. Do not take Tylenol® if you have liver disease without checking with your doctor first.
The combination of surgery, narcotic pain medicine, decreased activity level, and a change in your diet, can play a role in getting constipated. It is common to have a problem with your bowels after surgery. Please see Health Facts for You Constipation from Opioids (Narcotics) found in the Post-Operative Orthopedic Spine Surgery Packet.
When to Call the Doctor
- Increased pain, swelling or redness in or around the incision area.
- Sudden increase in pain or pain not relieved by medicine.
- An increase in the amount of drainage, change in the color of drainage, or any odor from the incision. Be ready to describe what the drainage looks like, how it smells, and how much there is.
- A temperature above 100.5ºF or 38.1°C for 24 hours.
- Problems urinating or having control of your bladder or bowel movements.
- A “new” chest pain or “new” problem with breathing.
- Redness, warmth or tenderness in the back of the calf of your leg(s).
Return to Work
When you return to work will depend on your recovery and the type of work you do. Discuss with your doctor before you return to work.
The Spine Clinic staff will be working with you to balance pain medicine, pain management, and activity. The goal is to taper you off of your pain medicine by 4 weeks after surgery. If you need a refill on your pain medicine, call the Spine Clinic at (608) 265-3207, Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. and ask for the nurse. Please call when you have a 2 to 3 day supply left of your medicines. Be ready to give the name and phone number of the drugstore where you want to pick up a refill.
Future Clinic Visits
The nursing staff will help you schedule your first clinic visit in 6 weeks. All other clinic visits will be as needed.
If you have questions or concerns, please call the Spine Clinic.
Monday through Friday between 8:00 AM and 5:00 PM at (608) 265-3207.
Nights and Weekends, call the paging operator at (608) 262-0486. If you live out of the area, call 1(800) 323-8942. Ask for the “orthopedic resident on call”. Leave your name and phone number with the area code. The doctor will call you back.
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: 08/24/2010
Copyright © 05/06/2010 University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#5127
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