Lumbar (Low Back) Fusion
Lumbar (Low Back) Fusion FAQ’s
Frequently Asked Questions About Lumbar (Low Back) Fusion
- How long of a hospital stay can I expect?
Most patient’s can expect to stay for up to 2 days. If your pain level is tolerable and you are doing well medically, you can expect to be discharged.
- Will I need a brace?
Some surgeons will prescribe a brace that will be fitted after surgery. This brace will be worn at all times except for daily hygiene and sleeping for an estimated period of 3 – 4 months. Other physicians may not use a brace.
- What is the approximate time it will take me to recuperate?
While everyone’s pain tolerances and conditions differ, most recover from this type of surgery within 2 – 3 months.
- How long before I can return to work?
This depends on the type of work you perform and the duties involved. This is usually discussed pre-operatively and again at your first post-op visit . In general, most patients can return to a sit down type job with no lifting required within 6- 8 weeks. Those patients who have heavier duty occupations requiring lifting, pushing, pulling, and overhead activity can expect to be out 3 or more months.
- How long before I can drive?
Most patients can return to driving 4 weeks after a lumbar fusion.
- How should I take care of my surgical incision?
Many physicians use different skin closures. Some are stapled, some are just a clear plastic coating. Care will depend on what closure is used.
- When can I walk?
As a normal part of the post-operative period, we encourage you to get up and walk the morning after your surgery. You may walk as much as you can tolerate.
- Will I require the use of a walking aid?
Some patients do use an assistive device such as a cane or walker after surgery. This is determined on an individual basis.
- Will I need nursing or therapy after surgery?
A nurse or therapist may come to your home upon your discharge from the hospital to instruct you on basic fundamentals. This will be based on your home situation, the extent of your surgery and your health prior to surgery.
- How long will my sutures stay in place?
If you have them, staples are normally removed 10-14 days after your surgery.
- Will I be able to have sexual relations after surgery?
Yes, you may resume sexual activities as soon as you feel up to it. This may be a few weeks after you come home from the hospital. You should avoid positions which cause increased back discomfort.
- How long before I can fly in a plane?
Most patients are free to travel after their second follow-up office visit in 6 – 8 weeks. Patients who may have been experiencing any problems during this time may be encouraged to wait a little longer before traveling. Keep in mind, you will not be able to carry any luggage greater than approximately 10 – 15 pounds.
- How long before I can take a bath at home?
You will need to avoid taking a bath or submerging in water for approximately 3 weeks after surgery. Showering however, is fine. See below.
- How long before I can shower at home?
As stated above, many different closures are used. most are ok to get wet. Just pat it dry.
- Do I need to be on a stool softener?
A stool softener will be ordered for you while in the hospital. You may discontinue this after your first bowel movement or at your discretion. Pain medications can be constipating s they are often advised.
- Will I be able to walk up stairs?
Most patients will be able to walk up stairs after surgery. You should limit the amount of times you go up and down the stairs during your first few days home. We encourage you to use a handrail if one is available.
- Will I be able to go swimming?
Yes, in approximately 3 weeks after surgery you will be able to walk in a pool.
- When will my pain improve?
Everyone’s pain tolerances and conditions do vary. In general, many patients experience some relief of their leg symptoms immediately after surgery. It is not uncommon to have back soreness, stiffness, and incisional discomfort for 2 – 4 weeks beyond surgery. For some patients, the pain level may decline slowly over weeks or even months after surgery.
- Why does everything hurt 2 or 3 days after surgery when I felt so good immediately afterwards?
Several reasons for this. First, you were given medications to help relax you and your pain during the surgery along with the anesthesia. This combination of medications may stay in your system for a day or two after surgery. Secondly, as you start feeling better, most patients become a bit more active, this can lead to increased discomfort initially.
- Why is my throat sore?
A sore throat can result from anesthesia in some cases. You received an endo-tracheal intubation (“tube”) into your throat to help you breath during the procedure. This may have irritated the lining of your throat. This soreness and even some difficulty swallowing tends to resolve within a few weeks after surgery.
- How long does “fusion” take?
In general, a healthy, non-smoking person can expect to see evidence of fusion on x-rays in approximately 4 to 6 months after surgery. Those who are diabetic or have other medical co-morbidities tend to fuse slower. Those who smoke can take twice as long to fuse and also have a greater risk of the lumbar fusion not taking, or “non-union”.
- When do I call the doctor?
If you experience any fevers over 101.5 degrees, any wound drainage, swelling or redness around your surgical incision, increasing pain, tingling or numbness that you did not have before surgery, difficulty swallowing, difficulty walking, inability to urinate, loss of bowel control, severe headaches or weakness, call your doctor.
- How will I know what is too heavy to lift?
You can lift up to 10 lbs after surgery until your first post-operative visit. Your ability to lift will be limited until 4 – 6 months after your surgery.
Last modified: February 18, 2020