Ask Dr. Strothman: How Do I Prepare For Spine Fusion Surgery?

A successful outcome for a spine fusion surgery is dependent on a number of factors. Although some of these factors are not in your control, there are a number of steps you can take to prior to surgery to improve your surgical outcome.

Prepare For Spine Fusion Surgery

Understanding Spine Fusion Surgery

“The goal of fusion surgery is to resolve pain that is being caused by the motion of a damaged segment of the spine,” says Summit Orthopedics spine surgeon Dr. David Strothman. “To put it simply, we address the pain by fusing the damaged segment of the spine so that it can’t move anymore.” This article explores how to prepare for spine fusion surgery.

A damaged disc, and the fusion surgery to treat it, may occur anywhere along the spine. Fusions may be performed on discs in the upper spine or neck, called the cervical spine; discs in the middle, or thoracic section of the spine; or in the lower, or lumbar spine. Although the location of the fusion surgery may vary, you can prepare for spine fusion surgery by following some similar steps.

Prepare For Spine Fusion Surgery

  • Additional studies. Planning back surgery requires great precision, and your surgeon may do additional tests to assess spinal instability, nerve compression, and nerve function at the damaged site.
  • A general health assessment. You will be evaluated to make sure that you are in good medical condition before your surgery.
  • Certain medications will be discontinued before surgery. There is a certain amount of blood loss with any surgery. Some medications prevent your blood from clotting and can increase blood loss during surgery. You can expect to stop taking aspirin and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) 10 to 14 days prior to surgery. Your surgeon will review all of your medications with you to make sure medications are managed so that surgery can be safely performed.
  • Exercise is encouraged. Even a daily walk or other aerobic exercise in the period leading up to your surgery can enhance your recovery. In some cases, patients may work with a physical therapist to improve their conditioning before surgery.
  • Make preparations for your recovery in advance. After fusion surgery, your activities will be limited, and you may need help at home. Your surgical team will explain what you can expect during your recovery and suggest the arrangements you should have in place to support your recovery.

Role of smoking on healing

“Successful fusion surgery depends in part on how well the bone graft, or fusion, heals,” explains Dr. Strothman. “Some of the factors that inhibit healing are out of the patient’s control, but there are steps a patient can take to help make his or her surgery successful. We know that nicotine inhibits bone growth, so patients who smoke are encouraged to stop smoking before the surgery. We encourage our patients to quit smoking permanently, but at the very least, fusion patients should stop smoking as soon as possible before surgery, and refrain from smoking again for at least three months after their surgery, during the most critical period of bone healing.

Supportive spine surgeons and staff

“Any surgery involves challenges and a certain amount of psychological stress,” Dr. Strothman acknowledges. “Our spine team at Summit works with each surgical patient to help manage expectations, answer questions, and provide the information and medical support to maximize your surgical outcome.”

Spine fusion treatment

Summit Orthopedics is home to Minneapolis/St. Paul’s top spine specialists for spine fusion surgery. If you are experiencing symptoms of damaged discs, the spine team at Summit Orthopedics will work with you to confirm a diagnosis and develop first an appropriate conservative treatment plan to address your problems. If nonsurgical treatments fail, or have failed, to support your lifestyle goals, fellowship-trained spine surgeons are here to consult with you and discuss appropriate surgical options, such as spine fusion surgery.

Start your journey to a healthy spine: Find your spine expert, request an appointment online, or call us at 651-968-5201 to schedule a spine consultation.

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  • David H. Strothman, M.D.

    “Spinal disorders are complex and disabling. As your surgeon I will explain your diagnosis and treatment options, both operative and non-operative, in a way that you can understand thereby allowing you to make informed decisions. I am rewarded daily by improving the quality of life of patients receiving my care.”

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