Neck Diskectomy and Fusion
Also known as Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion
Frequently Asked Questions (understand these are general answers, and may not apply to your specific situation)
- How long of a hospital stay can I expect?
For a one or two level procedure, most patients go home by the next day. If you are having three or more levels operated on, you will be in the hospital 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 neck collar or brace?
For a one or two level Neck Diskectomy and Fusion, you will leave the hospital with a soft cervical collar. You may take this off when you wish. We encourage you to wear it for the first week, especially when outside the home. For larger surgeries involving 3 or more levels, you probably will be placed into a more rigid cervical collar. Dr. Shim will discuss with you how long you will have to wear this collar after surgery.
- If my doctor orders a collar, do I wear it when I drive?
No, It is against the law to drive a motor vehicle with a cervical collar on. You will need to wait until the collar is removed before you may drive.
- 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 with a 4 to 6 week time period. At that time, most people will be able to return to most activities. Please discuss the specific activity details with your surgeon.
- How long before I can return to work?
This depends on the type of work you perform and the duties involved. Dr. Shim will discuss this with you during your first post-operative follow-up visit. In general, most patients can return to a sit down type job with no lifting required within 2-3 weeks after surgery. Those patients who have heavier duty occupations requiring lifting, pushing, pulling, and overhead activity can expect to be out 4- 6 weeks.
- How long before I can drive?
For a one or two level Neck Fusion and Diskectomy, most patients can safely return to driving within 2 – 3 weeks after surgery. Those who have 3 or more levels operated on and are placed in a rigid collar, may not drive for up to 6 –8 weeks.
- How should I take care of my surgical incision?
Your incision is closed with dissolving sutures under the skin. The skin is held together with steri-strips until the wound is healed. We also utilize an excellent dressing called Silverlon. Please do not remove the dressing, as we will remove the dressing and inspect the wound on the first post-op visit. You can shower with the dressing, just pat it dry. After inspection of the wound, further instructions will be given. In most situations, the wound is almost healed by the post-op visit.
- 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 therapy after surgery?
At the time of your first post-operative visit in the office with Dr. Shim, you will be instructed to begin gentle range of motion exercises for your neck. Most patients are able to do their own therapy at home and don’t require a formal therapy program.
- How long will my sutures stay in place?
Your Neck Diskectomy and Fusion incision was closed with dissolving sutures. Therefore, there is nothing that has to be removed.
- 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 days or even a week after you come home from the hospital. You should avoid positions which cause increased neck discomfort.
- How long before I can fly in a plane?
Most patients are free to travel after their initial post-operative visit 10 –14 days after surgery. Patients who may have been experiencing any problems during this time may be encourage 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 for the first 4 weeks after surgery.
- How long before I can take a bath at home?
You may take a bath upon your return home, but you should avoid total immersion of your head and neck. As we are now using the silverlon dressing, you may get it wet, but just pat it dry. Most patients can safely resume a normal bath 3 weeks after surgery.
- How long before I can shower at home?
Because we are using the Silverlon dressing, you may shower with the dressing on. Just pat it dry. Remember, do not remove the dressing. It will be done at the office.
- 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.
- Is it alright to sleep on a waterbed?
We encourage you to sleep on at least a semi-firm surface following surgery. Some water mattresses may be too soft immediately after surgery.
- 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.
- When will my pain improve?
Everyone’s pain tolerances and conditions do vary. In general, many patients experience some relief of their arm symptoms immediately after surgery. It is not uncommon to have neck soreness, stiffness, and incision discomfort for several weeks beyond surgery. For some patients, the pain level may decline slowly over weeks or even months after surgery. Depending on the nature of your nerve compression, or extent of prior symptoms, it may take longer for some individuals to achieve meaningful pain relief.
- 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 you throat to help you breath during the procedure. This may have irritated the lining of your throat. Also, for patients who undergo surgery on the lower aspect of your neck, you can develop irritation of a nearby nerve. This soreness and even some difficulty swallowing tends to resolve within a few weeks after surgery.
- How long does a fusion take?
In general, a healthy, non-smoking adult with no significant other medical problems can expect to see evidence of fusion in 4 to 6 months after surgery. Patients who do smoke or are diabetic tend to take longer to fuse. In some cases, it may take a year to fuse.
- 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, severe headaches or weakness, call your doctor.
- How will I know what is too heavy to lift?
You can lift up to 5 lbs after surgery until your first post-operative visit. After 10 – 14 days, Dr. Shim will allow you to lift up to 15 lbs.