7 Tips to Prepare for Spinal Fusion

  • young african american male paying medical bill
    How to Prepare for Spinal Fusion Surgery
    Spinal fusion surgery can relieve back pain and restore function to limbs experiencing numbness, weakness or tingling due to compressed nerves at the spinal column. Your surgeon can perform spinal fusions anywhere along the spine, though the most common fusion surgeries involve the neck (cervical spine) and lower back (lumbar spine). The risks of spinal fusion are relatively low, and you can improve your chances of a successful surgery by getting ready in advance. Find out how to prepare for this surgery to increase your likelihood of a smooth spinal fusion recovery.
  • marking the date to quit smoking
    1. Quit smoking.
    If you smoke, you should quit well in advance of spinal fusion surgery. In fact, quitting smoking is the number one way to improve your odds of a successful fusion. Numerous studies have demonstrated that smoking substantially interferes with the bones’ ability to fuse together after spinal surgery. Smoking also can cause other postoperative complications, such as poor wound healing. If you need help to quit smoking, ask your surgeon for resources or connect to your state’s quitline by calling 1-800-QUIT NOW (1-800-784-8669).
  • Midsection Of Doctor Showing Prescription To Man On Table
    2. Discuss your medications and supplements.
    When meeting with your surgeon near the surgery date, be sure to provide a complete list of all the prescription and over-the-counter medications you take regularly, along with a list of any vitamins, minerals or herbal supplements you consume. Many of these products (including aspirin, for example) can interfere with healing after spinal fusion surgery, so your doctor will tell you which prescriptions and products you can safely continue—and which ones to stop taking.
  • Smiling mixed race family enjoying healthy dinner together at home
    3. Eat healthy—and get plenty of fiber.
    Many vitamins and micronutrients aid in the healing process after a procedure like spinal fusion surgery, so you can improve your odds of a good result by consuming plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, eating lean proteins, and making sure you get plenty of fiber. Avoid fatty, processed foods that can cause constipation, since prescription pain relievers often slow the gut. Ask your doctor about taking a fiber supplement or stool softener after surgery to keep your bowels regular.
  • portrait of smiling man sitting on bed
    4. Move your bed downstairs.
    Ask your surgeon if you will be allowed to climb and descend stairs in the days following your surgery. If not, prepare an area on the ground floor of your home where you can sleep. Going up and down stairs creates a fall risk that could jeopardize your surgical outcome, and the effort involved in climbing stairs may exceed the activity level your surgeon prescribes for the first days and weeks after your spinal fusion operation.
  • Senior couple checking kitchen cupboards
    5. Prepare your kitchen.
    Bending, twisting and lifting motions all are discouraged after spinal fusion surgery, which may make it difficult for you to prepare meals after you get home. Prior to your surgery, move commonly used food items to an area that’s easy to reach, such as the upper shelves of the refrigerator. Stack canned goods and prepared foods on the countertop temporarily. Do the same for any pots and pans you expect to need. This advance preparation will help you avoid exceeding the lifting and activity requirements outlined in your discharge instructions.
  • elderly man at raised toilet seat
    6. Obtain helpful durable medical equipment (DME).
    Ask your surgeon if you would benefit from obtaining any durable medical equipment, such as a toilet seat riser, to aid your post-op recovery. The list of DME that might be helpful will vary, depending on the location of your spinal surgery and the extent of the procedure. In some cases, DME, such as a folding walker, will be issued to you at the hospital as part of your insured costs. Discussing the issue of DME in advance of your procedure will allow you to have what you need while avoiding unnecessary purchases.
  • woman delivering groceries to senior man
    7. Enlist the help of family members and friends.
    During the immediate post-op recovery period, you may not be able to drive or get around well, in general. Inform family members and friends in advance that you may need help to pick up prescriptions, prepare meals, or perform activities of daily living so they can be on call if you need them. Alternatively, arrange with an in-home care provider to send a professional caregiver to your home for a few days to assist you. Having this help will allow you to rest and recover, which aids the spinal fusion process.
7 Tips to Prepare for Spinal Fusion Surgery & Recovery

About The Author

As “the nurse who knows content,” Elizabeth Hanes, RN, works with national and regional healthcare systems, brands, agencies and publishers to produce all types of consumer-facing content. Formerly a perioperative and cosmetic surgery nurse, Elizabeth today uses her nursing knowledge to inform her writing on a wide variety of medical, health and wellness topics.
  1. Spinal Fusion. U.S. National Library of Medicine, MedlinePlus. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002968.htm
  2. Spine Surgery – Discharge. U.S. National Library of Medicine, MedlinePlus. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000313.htm
  3. Scoliosis Surgery in Children. U.S. National Library of Medicine, MedlinePlus. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/007383.htm
  4. Spinal Fusion. North American Spine Society. https://www.spine.org/KnowYourBack/Treatments/Surgical-Options/Spinal-Fusion
  5. Spinal Fusion. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/treatment/spinal-fusion/
  6. Berman, D., Oren, J. H., Bendo, J., & Spivak, J. (2017). The Effect of Smoking on Spinal Fusion. International journal of spine surgery, 11(4), 29. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29372133/
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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2020 Jun 10
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