How do I prepare for my discectomy?
You are a very important member of your own healthcare team. The steps you take before surgery can improve your outcome. You can best prepare yourself for a discectomy by:
- Answering all questions about your medical history and medications you take. This includes prescribed medications, over-the-counter drugs, herbal treatments, and vitamins. It is a good idea to carry a current list of your medical conditions, medications, and allergies at all times.
- Getting pre-operative testing as directed. Testing will vary depending on your age, health, and specific procedure. Pre-operative testing may include a chest X-ray, electrocardiography (ECG), blood tests, and other tests as needed.
- If you are overweight, talk to your doctor about losing weight before the surgery through a healthy diet and exercise plan.
- Not eating or drinking just prior to surgery as directed. Your doctor may cancel your surgery if you eat or drink too close to the start of your surgery due to a risk of complications. These include choking on stomach contents during general anesthesia.
- Stop smoking as soon as possible. Even quitting for a just few days can be helpful.
- Taking or stopping medications exactly as directed. For discectomy, this may include not taking aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), and blood thinners.
Questions to ask your doctor
Facing surgery can be stressful. It is common for patients to forget some of their questions during a brief doctor’s office visit. You may also think of other questions after your appointment. You should contact your doctor with any concerns before surgery. It is also a good idea to bring a list of questions to your pre-operative appointments. Questions can include:
- Why do I need a discectomy? Are there any other options for treating my condition?
- What type of discectomy procedure will I need?
- How long will the surgery take? When will I be able to go home?
- What restrictions will I have after the surgery, and when can I expect to return to work and other activities?
- What kind of assistance will I need at home?
- What medications will I need before and after the surgery? How should I take my usual medications?
- How will you manage my pain?
- How should I contact you? When should I see you in follow-up? Ask for numbers to call during and after regular hours.
What can I expect after my discectomy?
Knowing what to expect can help make your road to recovery after a discectomy as smooth as possible.
How long will it take to recover?
You will need to stay in the hospital for a period of time after your discectomy. After the surgery, you will stay briefly in the recovery room until you are fully alert, breathing effectively, and your other vital signs are stable. In most cases, you can go home on the same day. However, sometimes a hospital stay of one to two days may be required.
Recovery after surgery is a gradual process. How long it will take for you to recover and return to normal activities varies depending on the specific procedure and type of anesthesia used, your general health, age, and other factors. Your doctor will probably encourage you to walk and avoid sitting for long periods. You will also likely have a course of physical therapy to help you recover.
Full recovery times range from about two to six weeks. It might take longer for you to return to full activities if you have a job that requires heavy lifting or operating heavy machinery that vibrates, such as a jack hammer.
Will I feel pain?
Pain control is an important element to healing and a smooth recovery. Although there will be discomfort after your surgery, you can expect that your doctor and care team will manage your pain effectively so you are comfortable and can get the rest you need. Contact your doctor if you are in pain despite following your pain management plan or if your pain gets worse or changes.
When should I call my doctor?
After a discectomy you should keep your follow-up appointments. Feel free to call your doctor if you have any concerns between appointments. Call your doctor right away or seek immediate medical care if you have:
© Copyright 2012 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. For specific medical advice, diagnoses and treatment, consult your doctor.