Preparing For Spine Surgery: A Patient’s Pre-Operative Guide

If chronic back pain or limited mobility has started negatively impacting your quality of life, spine surgery may offer a solution. However, the thought of surgery can also bring anxiety. Being informed and setting clear expectations can prepare you physically and mentally and make you feel empowered and confident.

This pre-operative guide can help you get ready for surgery and ensure a successful recovery. Talk to your surgeon about the procedure and recovery process so you understand what to expect. Being proactive with your preparations will set you up for the best possible outcome.

Pre-Operative Preparations

Once you decide to undergo spine surgery, your spine surgeon becomes a key guide. Your surgeon outlines each step pre-operation. This includes scheduling tests, preparing your home, and details on the surgery. 

Having pre-operative preparations helps you ask good questions, follow personal directions, and understand the process to set realistic expectations. Here are the processes that you need to do before your surgery:

Pre-Surgery Testing And Clearances

Typically, there’s a window of one to two weeks between scheduling and undergoing spine surgery. Use this time to complete any prescribed medical testing to assess overall health. The medical tests and clearances required before surgery may include:

  • Bloodwork: Blood tests will be ordered to assess factors like blood cell counts, clotting time, and electrolyte panels and screen for infections. 
  • Imaging Exams: X-rays, CT scans, or MRIs of your back are often necessary to provide a detailed view of your spine’s anatomy. Additionally, an EKG heart tracing may be conducted, especially if there are any underlying cardiac concerns.
  • Specialist Clearances: For patients with pre-existing conditions like heart or lung disease, diabetes, or high blood pressure, clearance from the relevant specialist is crucial. This step ensures that these conditions are well-managed and won’t interfere with the surgery or recovery.
  • Medication Review: Reviewing your medications is also important. Certain drugs, including blood thinners and anti-inflammatories, may need to be stopped before surgery due to bleeding and healing risks.
  • Dental Check-Up: A dental check-up can help prevent surgical site infections caused by dental bacteria. Stay alert for symptoms of infections, such as coughs, colds, or gastrointestinal issues, and report them to your doctor immediately, as they can pose risks during surgery.

By taking these preparatory steps, you can help ensure a safe surgical experience and pave the way for a smoother recovery.

Lifestyle Changes

Certain lifestyle changes will be ordered after clearance for spinal surgery is obtained. Your priority before the main event is ensuring you’re physically and emotionally healthy.

  • Smoking And Alcohol Cessation: It’s critical to quit smoking and alcohol consumption at least six to eight weeks before the surgery. These habits are known to impede the body’s healing process and can significantly affect surgical outcomes.
  • Nutritional Diet: Focus on a diet high in protein, fruits, vegetables, and fiber and low in processed foods and sugar to promote healing while staying hydrated. 
  • Vitamin Supplementation: Based on your doctor’s advice, consider taking supplements rich in vitamins and minerals. These supplements can provide your body with essential nutrients that support recovery after surgery.
  • Regular Physical Activity: Engaging in consistent physical activity is beneficial for maintaining a healthy weight and enhancing endurance, muscle tone, and cardiovascular health. Regular exercise prior to surgery can also help reduce the risk of post-operative complications, such as blood clots or circulation issues.

By integrating these lifestyle changes, you can significantly improve your physical and emotional readiness for spinal surgery, thereby enhancing the likelihood of a successful outcome and smooth recovery.

Fasting Instructions

To prevent anesthesia-related complications, patients must stop intake of foods and liquids at set times pre-op. Solid foods should typically be avoided 12 hours before scheduled surgery. 

Clear liquids like water, black coffee, and apple juice can be had up to two hours beforehand. Fasting helps avoid vomiting and aspiration during intubation. Follow your provider’s specific fasting guidelines carefully before arrival.

Setting Up a Recovery-Friendly Home Environment

Getting your home ready before you return from spinal surgery is essential for your recovery and safety. 

  • Trip Hazard Removal: Prepare your home by removing any potential trip hazards. This includes clearing away loose rugs, tiles, cords, and clutter, especially in areas where you might use a cane or walker for support.
  • Stability Installations: Install grab bars and railings in critical areas such as staircases. These additions will provide necessary support and help prevent falls as you navigate your home during recovery.
  • Bathroom Safety Preparations: Given the importance of hygiene and the challenges of balancing post-surgery, your bathroom needs special attention. Equip it with shower seats, raised toilet seats, safety handles, and bars. These installations will aid in stability and make bathroom use safer and more manageable.

These home modifications are instrumental in creating a secure and comfortable environment conducive to healing.

On The Day Of The Spinal Surgery

Stay calm and maintain a positive mindset, trusting in the expertise of your healthcare team and the preparation you’ve undertaken. Here are some tips for what to do on the day of your spinal surgery:

  • Rest The Evening Before: Spend the previous evening resting to calm both your mind and body. Avoid excessive worrying about the surgery to keep stress at bay.
  • Shower And Follow Medication Guidelines: On the morning of the surgery, shower with the antiseptic wash provided by your surgeon to minimize infection risks. Take only approved medications with small sips of water and adhere to the fasting guidelines set by your surgeon.
  • Arrive Prepared At The Hospital: Get to the hospital at your scheduled check-in time with all necessary documents, like insurance information and ID. Remove any contacts, dentures, jewelry, or piercings as directed, and leave valuables at home or with someone you trust.
  • Undergo Pre-Surgical Procedures: Participate in the pre-surgical interview with the nurse about your health status and have an IV line installed. Discuss pain management and comfort with the anesthesiology team.

By following these guidelines, you can make your surgery day as smooth and stress-free as possible. These steps are key to preparing for a successful procedure. 

Final Thoughts

Undergoing spine surgery is a major decision that requires thorough preparation and planning. With the help of this pre-operative guide, patients can alleviate much of the stress and anxiety typically associated with surgery by being informed about the process beforehand.

If you prepare appropriately, ask questions, and adhere to your treatment plan, you can have peace of mind knowing you’ve done everything possible to ensure your surgery is safe and effective and gets you back to the activities you love.

Nancy T. Warner

Nancy T. Warner is a health and wellness writer with over a decade of experience in producing informative content on various medical procedures and recovery processes. In her free time, Nancy enjoys experimenting with new healthy recipes in the kitchen.


World of Medical Saviours (WOMS) is a website formed by a group of medicos who are embarking to provide facts, tips and knowledge related to health and lifestyle. This website proves to be a great platform for the medical enthusiast and also for those medicos searching to outgrowth their knowledge about the medical field.

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