Risks of back surgery
Surgical risks fall under several categories. There are risks of the surgery itself such as neurovascular damage, hemorrhage, implant insertion error, or anesthetic complications. If an anterior approach is used, there are additional risks to the abdominal structures. After surgery, complications may occur in the early or late postoperative period. Early problems include hematoma, infection, poor wound healing, and pulmonary impairment from the anesthesia. Late problems may occur months later. Recurrent disc herniation and fusion non-unions are examples of late complications. These risks are relatively low in their likelihood and should be further discussed with your surgeon in detail.
Wearing a brace after surgery
The need for external bracing after a spinal fusion depends upon the nature of your spinal problem, the type of surgery performed and the preference of your surgeon. Your surgeon will have a specific opinion as to the need for a brace after your operation.
Insurance coverage and spine surgery
Medical insurance is intended to provide coverage for necessary medical treatment. You should always contact your insurance company to discuss the financial issues with them. Pre-approval is often required. Co-payments and deductibles need to be considered. Sometimes, a second opinion is desired or required. Restrictions may apply. Your surgeon or hospital may or may not participate with your insurance.
Recover time after surgery
Most patients recover quite quickly from surgery. The initial phase requires healing the incision and the soft tissues which typically occurs over the first few weeks. Patients are walking the day following surgery, and from that day, they can expect to ambulate on a daily basis. The rate of recovery is dependent on each individual patient and their health status before surgery. If patients are healthy before the surgical procedure, we expect them to recover quite quickly.
Follow-up visits after spine surgery
Typically we see our surgical patients one or two weeks after leaving the hospital to check the incision and assure that the healing process is progressing appropriately. For minor decompression surgery, patients are typically seen at the six-week point to assess their status and institute physical therapy. Fusion surgeries require more time to allow the fusion to heal and patients are typically seen every six to eight weeks to gauge the process and obtain radiographs of the spinal fusion to ensure that it is healing well.
Less invasive surgical options
The availability of minimally invasive procedures continues to evolve. Only your spinal specialist is aware of which procedures he/she is comfortable with and whether or not you are a candidate. In many cases, the same surgery can be done through smaller incisions. This includes discectomy and spinal fusion. Ask your surgeon if you qualify.
Physical rehabilitation after surgery
Physical therapy may be beneficial in restoring function after surgery. A combination of aerobic and resistive exercise has been shown to improve the success rate of all types of spinal surgery. By working with a trained physical therapist, a patient may begin this program within a few weeks of surgery. The duration of therapy depends on the condition of the patient and the specific physical goals. If a health club is available, the patient can be transitioned to an independent program for maintenance of function. This can usually occur within 4 - 6 weeks of surgery.