What to Expect During Your Stay at RWJBarnabas Health

Below are some tips for what to expect when you are having surgery at an RWJBarnabas Health hospital.

    What to Bring to the Hospital

    Bring personal hygiene items (toothbrush, powder, deodorant, electric razor, etc.); under- wear, shorts, tops; well-fitted shoes with non-slip soles, such as flat shoes or tennis shoes. You may bring battery operated items. If you have adaptive equipment such as a walker or reachers, you may have them brought to you after your surgery. Please make sure that personal equipment is labeled clearly.

    When You Arrive for Your Surgery

    Go to the information desk in the hospital lobby and ask to be directed. Inform them that you are having spine surgery.

    • A copy of your advance directives, if you have one
    • Your insurance card
    • Driver’s license or photo I.D.
    • Any co-payment required by your insurance company

    Staff will explain the hospital routines, discuss concerns and answer questions. You will be escorted to an area to change your clothes.

    A hospital gown and slippers will be provided to you. You will also be covered with warm blankets.

    A nurse from SDS will take your vital signs, height, weight and review/update your medical history if any changes occur.

    You will receive a visit from your anesthesiologists, who will review your medical history with you and explain their role in the procedure.

    A urine pregnancy test will be obtained for any female of childbearing years. Any additional testing will be done at this time.

    We limit the number of visitors to 2 during this pre-operative period, allowing our surgical staff to focus on you with minimal distraction.

    Post-Anesthesia Care Unit

    When you wake up it will be in the post-anesthesia care unit (PACU). The length of your stay depends upon your procedure and type of anesthesia or sedation used.

    • If you are going home the same day and are awake and stable you will go to the second phase of recovery, to prepare for your discharge home.
      • We ask that one person be the designated spokesperson for each patient.
      • Once all necessary care is provided the recovery nurse will contact your designated spokesperson to update them on your status.
      • In the second phase of recovery a visitor may stay with you.
      • Discharge: You must arrange for an adult driver to take you home after your surgery. No patients who receive anesthesia can drive, or take county transportation or taxi service home. Taxi service or Medical Uber/Lyft are the only alternative options if you are accompanied by an adult (over 18 years of age).
    • If you are being admitted to the hospital you will go directly from PACU to your assigned room.
      • We ask that one person be the designated spokesperson for each patient.
      • Visitation varies for each hospital depending on unit and type of surgery. Please discuss visitation guidelines with the hospital staff when checking-in.


    Anesthesia will be custom-fit to your personal needs. The types available for you are:

    • General anesthesia: provides loss of consciousness or awareness.
    • Medications are also given to make you sleepy or drowsy and lower your anxiety.

    Will I Have Any Side Effects?

    Your anesthesiologist will speak to you about risks and benefits associated with the different anesthetic options as well as any side effects that might happen with each type. Nausea or vomiting may be related to anesthesia or the type of surgery. It is less of a problem because of better techniques and medications, but these side effects still might happen for some patients.

    Medications to treat nausea and vomiting will be given if needed. The amount of discomfort you have will depend on different factors, especially the type of surgery. Your doctors and nurses will do everything possible to lessen pain and keep you safe.

    You may be uncomfortable, but do not expect to be totally pain-free. The staff will teach you the pain scale to better assess your pain levels.

    Daily Schedule

    Your surgeon or somebody from his/her team will see you on a daily basis while you are in the hospital.

    Visitors are welcome, preferably late afternoons or evenings. Some patients go home the day after surgery but many go home after 2 to 3 nights in the hospital depending on your type of surgery and recovery. There are many different procedures that your surgeon performs, please ask your surgeon for the specifics.

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