What is the post-operative care to look out for in a minimally invasive spinal fusion?

August 30, 2016

Spinal fusion is a surgical procedure that joins two or more of your vertebrae. A supplementary bone tissue or artificial bone substitutes are taken either from you or a donor and is used to join two or more adjoining vertebrae.

There have been controversies among surgeons regarding the better option between a minimally invasive spinal fusion (in which a small incision is made in your back and an endoscope is inserted to carry out the procedure) and a laser spine surgery. Some argue that, while laser spine surgery can be an effective option, results may not always be successful. A laser spine surgery may be one of the most up-to-date surgeries available, but surgeons prefer a minimally invasive spine surgery as it may be more effective in bringing results.

Depending on the area involved a normal surgery may take you just about 2 to 3 hours in total.

What does post-operative care following a minimally invasive spinal fusion involve?

If you have just had a minimally invasive spinal fusion, you are most likely to be allowed to get back home after 1 to 3 days of your surgery. Before going home, you would be instructed by occupational or physical therapists on the proper techniques and postures of walking independently or getting up from the bed. Certain restrictions in your physical movements may also be instructed to you, such as not lifting heavy objects and not twisting during the first few weeks after your surgery to avoid strain injury. As the pain subsides gradually with your back muscles getting stronger, you may be able to lift, bend and twist after 4 to 6 weeks following your surgery. However, here are some post-operative care measures you need to follow:

Get a brace for your back
It is not necessary that you need to use a back brace post-surgery. Instead, you may need to wear a soft or rigid lumbar corset to get extra lumbar support for a few days during the post-operative period.

Take proper care of your wound
You should keep your wound dry and clean. You may not always require a bandage and in case you don’t, it is vital for you to keep the area open to air.

Know the proper way of bathing post-surgery
There may not be restrictions in taking a shower after surgery. You may be able to shower immediately, but you would have to cover the area of the incision with a bandage to avoid water from directly hitting that area. After a shower, you must immediately remove your bandage and thoroughly dry off the incision area. Do not take a shower unless you are completely healed.

Know when to resume driving your car or motorcycle
You may resume your driving activities once your pain decreases to a reasonable level, which is usually between 7 and 14 days following your surgery. Avoid driving when you’re on pain medications. You may initially get started with a short drive after your surgery. If you feel comfortable enough, you may drive for longer durations.

Know when to get back to regular work and sports
You may get back to your regular work after 1 to 2 weeks following your surgery, provided the pain has dipped. You may return to a moderate level of work or light recreational activities after a month if the surgical pain has subsided completely.

Go for follow-up visits and check-ups to the doctor
You should go for a follow-up 12 to 14 days after your operation. In this check-up, your cut will be inspected, and one suture (stitches) will be removed. All your medications might be refilled, or altered if required. An x-ray may be taken afterwards to check if the area of fusion is healing properly and is stable. You may be prescribed to begin low-intensity back exercises as a part of physical therapy.

If you have undergone a spinal fusion recently, you should follow the tips and guidelines that are suggested to you by your surgeon. For any doubts or queries relating to any kind of surgery, be it a minimally invasive spinal fusion or an endoscopic spine surgery, you should feel free to consult with your doctor.