Your virtual care after endoscopic spine surgery

YOUR HOSPITAL STAY AFTER SURGERY

Despite the small incision (< ¼ inch), the use of local numbing medication and pain medication with your anesthesia, you may wake up with minimal to moderate pain at the site of surgery. Typically, the discomfort is well controlled with oral anti-inflammatory medications that you receive in the recovery room and that you can continue to take at home. In most cases, you will be up and walking a few hours after the operation. You must be able to eat, drink and go to the bathroom to void urine prior to discharge. Most patients return home on the same day just hours after the surgery. Elderly patients (older than 70 years) or patients with complicated medical conditions may stay to recover overnight in the hospital.

FOLLOW-UP CARE

Once you are discharged part of your follow-up care will occur through the SpineHealthie mobile app. With the mobile app, you no longer need to be seen in-person for a follow-up visit. You will be required to complete follow-up surveys for 7 days after surgery, at 2 weeks, 3 months, 6 months, 1 year and 2 years. Be sure to complete the questionnaire on the mobile app once you receive the reminder. When you have completed your postoperative survey, your healthcare team will follow and monitor your progress via the mobile app. You can also send a message through the mobile app if you have any concerns or questions about your surgery. Should the need arise, your provider will contact you via the mobile app to ensure you are recovering. 

If you have medical concerns that require immediate attention, refer to the help section

SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF HEALING IN THE POST-OPERATIVE PERIOD 

  • The pain around your incision typically remains stable for the first 3-4 days and then slowly improves.

  • The character of your leg pain typically changes immediately after surgery. There is a wide variety of nerve symptoms during recovery depending on what particular part of the nerve was impinged and how severe the nerve was damaged. Many patients describe a sensation of mild tingling and burning in the leg area that was the site of shooting pain before surgery. Often there is also decreased sensation or numbness in this area. During the recovery leg muscles may be sore in response to only moderate physical activity. These sensations may be experienced in the first 3 – 6 weeks after surgery. In some patients, depending on the degree of chronic nerve damage, an area of numbness may remain.

  • Weakness in your leg may take weeks and months to improve. In some cases no or incomplete recovery is achieved depending on the degree of chronic nerve damage.

  • Recovery of bladder function is variable.

Image by Markus Frieauff

RECOMMENDATION FOR YOUR OPTIMAL RECOVERY

  • Surgical incision: The incision will be closed with dissolving stiches and reinforced with sticky strips or skin glue. The incision must stay covered for 24 hours and then may be left open to the air. You should not scrub or submerge your incision for at least 2 weeks after surgery to allow time to heal. Patients with diabetes, those taking steroids for other conditions, and those whose immune system may be compromised often need additional time for their wounds to completely heal. If there is any redness, tenderness, swelling or discharge from the wound you should see your family doctor or call our clinic immediately.

  • We recommend avoiding strenuous physical activity during the first 3 weeks after surgery. However, we recommend that you should continue regular gentle exercise such as walking.

  • Heavy lifting (more than 15 lbs) and bending as well as twisting of your torso should be avoided during the first 3 months after discectomies in order to minimize the risk of re-herniation.

  • Resuming any blood thinning medications which have been stopped for surgery needs to be discussed on an individual basis with your surgeon in order to weigh the benefits against the risks.

  • You may need to make plans to be off 2-6 weeks depending on the work you do. Heavy lifting should not be performed during the first 3 months after surgery. You may drive as long as you are not taking narcotic pain pills.

RECOMMENDATION FOR HEALTHY LIVING

Back pain affects 8 of 10 people at some time in their lives, and usually resolves within 6 weeks. A positive mental attitude, regular activity, and a prompt return to work are all very important elements of recovery. If your regular job cannot be done initially, it is in your best interest to return to some kind of modified (light or restricted) duty. Our office can give prescriptions for such activity for limited periods of time. 

 

The key to avoiding recurrence is prevention:

  • Proper lifting techniques (see Self Care for Neck & Back Pain)

  • Good posture during sitting, standing, moving, and sleeping 

  • Appropriate regular exercise to strengthen weak abdominal muscles and prevent re-injury 

  • An ergonomic work area

  • Healthy weight and lean body mass

  • A positive attitude and stress management

  • No smoking

MEDICATION

The prescription of medication needs to be discussed on an individual basis with your surgeon. 

 

Take pain medications according to the instructions on your prescription. Additionally, you may use an ice pack or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as Aleve for post-surgical wound soreness. Postoperative muscle relaxants may provide additional pain relief. 

SOURCES & LINKS

Visit the following links to learn more about self-care for neck and back pain: 

  1. www.spine-health.com

  2. www.spineuniverse.com

WHO CAN I CALL FOR HELP?

Harborview Medical Center (University of Washington) 

  • For medical emergencies, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency department.

  • For immediate medical care contact the Neurological Surgery Clinic at 206.744.9300, press option 2 and then option 2 for questions about your postoperative care. The clinic is open from Monday to Friday from 8am to 4pm

  • Call 206.744.2500 after hours, on weekends and during holidays.

  • You can call 206.744.0430 if you wish to schedule an in-person appointment.

  • If you cannot get ahold of us visit your UW Medicine eCare profile to send us a message. 
    UW Medicine eCare is a free, secure and convenient way to manage your health information and contact your healthcare team. Visit the website to setup your online access.