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Discharge Instructions for Lumbar Fusion

You had a lumbar fusion. During this procedure, your healthcare provider locked together (fused) some of the bones in your spine. This limits the movement of these bones to help relieve your pain. It also restore the normal curve of your spine. Your surgeon will give you recovery guidelines to follow. But below are general tips for recovery. Here’s what you need to know about home care after a spinal fusion.

Activity

  • Arrange your household to keep the items you need within reach.

  • During the first few days, don't go up and down stairs. It's best to have a bed on the ground floor.

  • Remove electrical cords, throw rugs, and anything else that may cause you to fall.

  • Use a walker or handrails until your balance, flexibility, and strength improve. A detachable bed rail can make moving in bed much easier. And remember to ask for help from others when you need it.

  • Free up your hands so that you can use them to keep balance. Use a fanny pack, apron, or pockets to carry things. Be sure not to carry too much at once.

  • Don’t bend or twist at the waist, or raise your hands over your head for the first  2 weeks after your surgery. Use a long-handled "grabber" that allows you to pick up items from the floor without bending.

  • Don’t lift anything heavier than 4 pounds for the first 2 weeks after surgery.

  • Don’t sit for more than 30 to 45 minutes at a time. Take frequent short walks. They are the key to your recovery.

  • Don’t drive until your healthcare provider says it’s OK. And never drive while you are taking opioidss or other medicines that make you drowsy.

  • Nap if you are tired, but don’t stay in bed all day.

  • Use chairs with arms. The arms make it easier for you to stand up and sit down.

  • Ask your healthcare provider about physical therapy if your provider hasn't yet given you instructions on this..

Incision care

  • Check your incision daily for redness, tenderness, or drainage.

  • Don’t use hot tubs, bathtubs, or swimming pools until your healthcare provider says it’s OK.

  • Wait 3 days after your surgery to start showering. Then shower as needed. Carefully wash your incision with soap and water. Gently pat the incision dry. Don’t rub it, or apply creams or lotions. And if you feel unsteady while standing to shower, use a shower stool or chair.

Other home care

  • Use nonslip bathmats, grab bars, an elevated toilet seat, and a shower chair in your bathroom.

  • Take your medicine exactly as directed. Call your surgeon if you have side effects or concerns.

  • Don’t take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen. They may delay or prevent correct fusion of the spine.

  • If you smoke, get help to stop. This will be one of the most important things you can do to help you recover from surgery. Nicotine prevents your bone from fusing and your wound from healing.

  • Wear the support stockings you were given in the hospital, as instructed by your healthcare provider.

  • Wear your back brace, if one was prescribed, as directed by your healthcare provider.

Follow-up

  • Keep appointments for X-rays. They will be taken from time to time to check the spinal fusion.

  • Make appointments for physical therapy, as instructed by your healthcare provider.

  • If needed, arrange to have your staples removed 2 weeks after surgery.

Call 911

Call 911 right away if you have any of the following:

  • Chest pain

  • Shortness of breath

  • Trouble controlling your bowels or bladder

  • Calf pain, swelling, or redness

When to call your healthcare provider

Call your healthcare provider right away if you have any of the following:

  • Fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher, or as directed by your healthcare provider

  • Shaking chills

  • Increased drainage, redness, tenderness, or swelling at the incision site

  • Opening of the incision

  • Increased pain, numbness, or tingling in either leg

  • Loss of movement in one or both legs

  • Symptoms get worse or you have new symptoms

Online Medical Reviewer: Luc Jasmin MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Marianne Fraser MSN RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Raymond Kent Turley BSN MSN RN
Date Last Reviewed: 9/1/2021
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