Frequently Asked Questions About Spine Procedures

These frequently asked questions are a general guide to help you prepare for your spine procedure. There are many different types of procedures performed at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital New Brunswick and your surgeon may have specific preferences for you after surgery. Always check with your surgeon if you are unsure about how this information may apply to you.

How long will I be in the hospital?

If you are having a spine procedure that includes a fusion, you can expect to be in the hospital anywhere from 1 to 3 nights. If you are having a spine procedure that does not include a fusion, you could go home the same day or after one night in the hospital.

Will I be discharged home or to rehab after surgery?

Surgeons prefer that you go directly home after surgery. It is best to heal in the privacy and comfort of your own home. You should plan to have someone with you in your home for at least the first 24 to 48 hours following surgery.

Some patients can benefit from rehab after surgery, this is a discussion you have with your surgeon and your care team in the hospital. Rehab is based on medical need and often pre-approval from your insurance company based on your medical progress after surgery.

Understanding your plan for discharge is important in the recovery process. You can expect help from the team to develop a plan that meets your particular needs.

  1. When can I drive?

Driving depends on the type of procedure you had and can vary from as early as 1 week to 4 weeks or more. Please arrange in advance for transportation during this time.

You can drive when you are no longer taking any narcotics or opioids, and can comfortably get in and out of a car.

When can I engage in sexual activities?

Generally, gradually resume sexual activity when you are comfortable and please speak to your surgeon with any concerns.

When can I shower?

Please follow your specific discharge instructions given to you by your discharge nurse.

You cannot shower if your drain is still in place and no baths until instructed by your surgeon.

Some of our surgeons use a waterproof dressing that you can shower with, some of our surgeons do not allow you to shower until the dressing comes off, which is usually 48 hours after surgery.

Will I be in pain after surgery?

Yes, but you, the patient, have the biggest role in pain management. Our goal is to lower your pain requirements. We cannot realistically eliminate all of your pain, but our specialty-trained staff will do everything they can to manage your pain effectively.

Please keep in mind your skin can take 7 to 14 days to heal. Bones and nerves can take 12 weeks or more to heal. Therefore some pain, numbness and tingling can be normal for the first few months after surgery.

Pain can be perceived differently by each patient. Therefore, upon discharge from the hospital pain medications are provided on a case-to-case basis.

Can I bend or lift after surgery?

Do not pick up anything heavier than 5 pounds, unless instructed by your surgeon.

Spine precautions are actions that we do not want you to do after surgery, we use the mnemonic B.L.T. :

  • No Bending or reaching
  • No Lifting, pushing or pulling
  • No Twisting

The therapists in the hospital will help you learn how to maintain these precautions in your everyday life.

Will I have a drain after surgery?

Some patients do have drains after surgery. Most patients do not feel pain or discomfort from the drain.

Will my metal implants set off security alarms at check points?

It may be detected, but most staff is familiar with surgical metal. Inform the security staff you have a metal implant and they can direct you.

When can I return to work?

It can vary depending on your procedure and your surgeon, but can be anywhere from 8 to 12 weeks or more.

For more information on all of these questions, please refer to the guidebook provided to you by the hospital.