Preparing for Spine Surgery

When undergoing any form of spine or back surgery, it’s important to make sure that you are prepared for the operation. Leading up to your procedure, you need to take a proactive role in your health and make a concerted effort to ensure sure things go smoothly for the physicians and yourself after the surgery is complete.

While the specific instructions in preparing for spinal surgery can vary depending on your condition and procedure, the following steps are generally recommended for any patients undergoing general anesthesia.

When preparing for spine surgery, follow these steps:

  • Step 1: Monitor your health before your operation. It’s vital that you notify your doctor of any symptoms of illness as they arise. You should report symptoms like a sore throat, chest pain, high fever, breathing difficulties or any kind of infection.

  • Step 2: Do not eat or drink anything 12 hours before your surgery. The main reason to avoid eating or drinking before surgery is to prevent aspiration. Aspiration occurs when food or liquid “goes down the wrong pipe” and the body reacts by coughing or vomiting to remove the object. Under general anesthesia, you are unconscious and unable to cough up any item that might be stuck in your airway, thus opening the door for serious complications. Additionally, Postoperative Nausea and Vomiting (PONV) is a common aftereffect of surgery. The best way to prevent it is to have an empty stomach when anesthesia is administered.   

  • Step 3: Arrange for a ride home after the operation. While most minimally invasive spinal procedures will have you out of the hospital within a day or so, it’s important to note that you cannot drive after surgery. Waking up from anesthesia is like waking up from a deep sleep. Patients are often very disoriented, woozy, have very little, if any, fine motor skills and will often be feeling the effects of the surgery. This being the case, hospital staff will not let you leave unless you have a designated driver to take you home.

  • Step 4: Shower the morning of your surgery. Unless you have been otherwise instructed by your doctor, shower the morning of your surgery using antibacterial soap. This will help reduce the amount of bacteria on your skin before your operation and help prevent infection.

  • Step 5: Prepare what you bring with you to the hospital. Pack lightly the day of your operation. Bring your legal ID, insurance card, phone, comfortable clothing to wear after surgery as well as glasses (no contacts) or dentures if needed. Leave all jewelry, valuables and makeup at home.

Oftentimes, hospitals and/or physicians will have a surgery packet for patients who have agreed to undergo spinal surgery. While you should receive it when you book your procedure date, be sure to ask for it if you don’t. This packet will likely contain detailed and specific instructions for how you should prepare for your surgery along with any special instructions your doctor may have for you. It will also likely give you a map of the hospital, parking instructions, the discharge procedure and some information on what your family and friends should expect.

The view the surgical packets for INOVA and Reston Hospital, click here.     

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Atlantic Brain and Spine A graduate of both Yale and Stanford, Dr. Jae Lim is a board-certified spine surgeon who specializes in minimally invasive spine surgery and robotic spine surgery, significantly reducing surgical impact and recovery times. (703) 876-4270
8501 Arlington Blvd. Suite 330
United States
Jae Y. Lim Ben L. Nguyen