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Preparing for spinal fusion surgery

Started by Kimmie-lee on 11/28/2017 1:33pm

Hi, this is the first group I have ever written to, but after reading others questions and the very informative answers, I felt comfortable asking for recommendations.
I am 56 , in very good physical fitness despite the scoliosis. I have had it since a child but after an auto accident 20 years ago when I broke my back , a compression fracture that was unstable, I really did not have back pain until about 7 years ago. It became so bad that I could no longer work. I have been getting facet joint injections and steroid shots. I had a disectomy L4,L5 5 years ago. In the last 2 years my curvecure has become much worse. Causing continuous pain in my back and complete numbness of my left quadricep.
Fast forward, after 4 different opinions all the Drs. Agreed that spinal fusion from T10 thru the complete lumbar is needed and will help not only the pain but my mortality.
Needless to say, I am scared out of my mind. I believe I am prepared for the directly after surgery pain but my question is for after, if it is necessary to hire a private nurse to stay with me in the hospital after I am moved to s regular room. Also if the Dr says I can go home what is the best type of help should I have. I do have family that will be with me at home all the time or should I insist that the Dr. Recommend a rehabilitation center.
And they had ask me to try to gain 20 lbs, which has not been very successful. I have gained about 7lbs . He said that I will lose a lot after. Can someone tell me why? The lack of muscle mass, is it sickness from pain meds?
And sleeping, what is the best way. My incision will be straight down my spine.
I know this is a lot , but anyone that can offer advice from my preparing going in that day thru my actual months post op. What to expect. I will feel much better hearing from actual patients. Thanks in advance to anyone that takes their time.

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7 Responses


Hello, Kimmie-lee--welcome to our Community! We understand your fears about your upcoming spine surgery, but the best way to combat fear is to learn as much as you can about your procedure--so you've come to the right place!
You pose some excellent questions about your upcoming scoliosis surgery and recovery. We hope others who had undergone surgery for scoliosis chime in with their personal experiences.

While we don't have a personal scoliosis surgery story to share, we do have resources that we hope will help you.
These first 2 articles are specific to scoliosis surgery and should help answer some general questions about prep and recovery:
( How to Prepare for Scoliosis Surgery )
( Recovery from Scoliosis Surgery )

These next 2 resources are about spine surgery as a whole and may help position you for you a speedy and healthy recovery:
( Spine Surgery: Questions to Ask Your Doctor )
( 7 Meal Plan Tips for Spine Surgery Recovery )

The duration and ease of your recovery will depend on the type of scoliosis surgery you have, but your surgeon will likely recommend physical therapy to help strengthen your muscles and improve flexibility. A key to long-term success after scoliosis surgery is to follow your surgeon’s instructions. So, don't be afraid to ask questions if you’re not clear how to move forward after the procedure.

We hope this information helps, and we wish you the very best with your upcoming procedure!


Hi, Kimmie-Lee, although I do not have scoliosis, I did have lumbar fusion in April 2017 at L3-L5 and believe I can offer some insights regarding recovery. I did not go to a rehab center after surgery, but had I realized the pain and difficulties doing regular daily activities, I would definitely have chosen to do so.

Some practical points: constipation can be a good bit of trouble, be sure to eat lots of fiber and/or meds and plenty of water. Any straining will be painful. Also get a toilet seat riser, esp. one with “arms” because sitting down and getting up will be very painful at first! Oh, and you will not be able to twist enough to wipe yourself, so get a “tool” to help you reach your backside. You can find it on Amazon - search for “toilet aids”.

Once you’re home, have a few bags of frozen peas handy, they will provide pain relief as they “mold” to your back! Later you will need a heating pad to help relax cramping muscles. Just be careful because you may have some numbness for awhile and not realize your skin is getting too hot.

I found a walker extremely helpful during the first week or two, not just for stability in walking, but also giving a stable base for sitting down and rising from chairs, couch and bed, or the toilet.

As far as sleeping, don’t expect a sound night’s sleep for quite a while. Rest and nap as much as possible regardless of the time of day! Getting into and out of bed was really difficult, so I got an electric recliner chair. It was the only place I could sleep for several weeks! By the way, the chair I picked included a feature to lift you up to a standing position. I did not think I would need it, but it was very, very helpful!!

To help maintain or increase your weight, try something like Ensure Plus. The Plus is extra protein which your body will need for healing! Pain and pain meds will probably decrease your appetite, so have these handy.

Feel free to ask any other questions, I’ll answer those that I can. Best wishes with your surgery!


To @BonnieRaeThank you so much for that information,, I have made arrangements for a rehabilitation center and a nurse that specializes in this surgery as the incision is going to be large and needs to be watched carefully for infection while healing. I was worried about the sleeping situation. I will definitely. Be on amazon today placing my order for those items.
As the surgery is only 2 days away, I am becoming increasingly nervous and anxious, reading everyone’s different experiences has helped as what to expect in some cases.
I will post something once I am able to do so. Any more information or suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thank you


Kimee, I would love to hear how you are doing. I'm also 56 and going in Monday 2/26/18 for the same surgery. I'm having a fusion from T10 to my pelvis. They will be removing hardware from L2 through S1 from a previous fusion and they will be removing a wedge from the L3 vertebrae to correctly center my weight on my pelvis.
I'm looking to hear from someone who has gone through such an extensive fusion. How did you make out? Did you need the rehab after the surgery? If I come home, I will be on my own as my spouse works 15 hour days. I would love to hear any suggestions? Any recommendations you received that work? I hope you are healing and feeling better 2 months post surgery.


This is a follow up post surgery for my fusion surgery on December 12th 2017 from T10-S1.
I had a complication directly after when one of my bolts that the rod pasted thru fractured. I woke up with extreme right hip flexor pain and blood loss. After two days of getting the bleeding under control I was scheduled for another surgery to remove L3 completely. After that surgery my leg was much better and I started to sit in the chair and then walk. I was just n the hospital for 10 days due to the complication. I did go to a rehab center for 1 week then to my mom’s for 2 more weeks.
I have had different pains other than what I was experiencing, considering my whole rib cage was rotated I believe I am doing very well.
Once I felt like eating, I started with a very healthy diet. Lots of protein and taking bone broth daily. I started walking on the treadmill at one month post op. I am now able to walk 2 miles - 30 minutes. I was in very good physical condition going into the surgery and I believe that has made the biggest difference for me.
I had lost possibly 15lbs in the beginning but have been able to gain some back. Some of that is muscle mass. I wear an otterbock brace that is Velcro with pieces of hard plastic to protect my back. It can be uncomfortable and hot but you feel better with it on.
I was not prepared for the amount of swelling and I still swell by the end of the day. I am almost 2 inches taller now that my spine is straight and my surgeon did a beautiful job on my incision. It has healed very well. A large part of my back and my right buttocks is numb. My P.M. Dr. Told me this is normal and it may take up to a year to be back to normal.
Overall even though it was a big surgery and immediately after I was miserable, I feeling much better and can’t wait to go to my 3 month checkup to see my progress.


@nyjoe, replying to your questions I wish I had read it prior to your scheduled surgery on 2/26/18. I hope you are having good post op care with no complications. Since our fusions were from the exact same area, I hope that if you have any questions that I can answer from my questions with experience I would be happy to share them.
I look forward to hearing how you are doing and able to keep your spirits up as the first month to me was the worst but it does get better and every little thing that you can do is a milestone on the journey to recovery.
Please keep us posted as to your progress as anyone that has been thru this understands that even taking your own shower is a huge success.
Welcome to the number of us that are now really miracles of what can be done for spinal issues that 20 yrs ago weren’t even an option.
Best of Luck !


Hi Kimmie-lee --
I completely understand your fear. Having had a 16-level instrumented fusion two years ago, I can tell you that the surgery and recovery were extremely difficult. However, I do not have the almost constant back pain I had before. I was in the hospital for five days, after which I went home where my husband took great care of me. I wasn't permitted to start physical therapy for four months and when I did, it lasted for three months. I was on opioids for three months, which helped with the pain but made me sick. I took a month to wean off them, which went fine. I did lose weight after the surgery because I was sick from the opioids. But I (unfortunately!) had no problem gaining it back. I don't even remember how I slept but I suspect it was on my side. I wish you well. Feel free to ask any questions you have and I'll be happy to answer.