This procedure is minimally invasive, allowing the patient to get discharged and head home within 24 hours of surgery. There are post-operative instructions to follow the six weeks after surgery to protect the spine and hardware and to ensure a full recovery.
Activity Restriction: Avoid high impact activities, heavy lifting, and repetitive tasks that require range of motion in the lower back for at least the first six weeks after surgery. This means any tasks that involve bending, lifting, and twisting of the lumbar spine, which includes many house chores.
Back Brace: The surgeon may recommend using a brace though this is not required for all patients. Braces are usually worn for six weeks after the surgery, except while laying down, and are usually made of a soft fabric or a hard plastic. Braces are worn at all times except while laying down for the first six weeks. The back brace serves to protect the hardware (i.e. the implant, screws, and rods) for appropriate healing.
Walking: Walking increases blood flow, reduces the likelihood of blood clots, and reduces the likelihood of pneumonia during post-operative recovery.
Proper Nutrition: Proper intake of protein and vitamins (specifically Vitamin A) in the diet is important for healing wounds and tissues after a surgical procedure.
Pain Medication: Take prescribed pain medication only as directed and as long as necessary. Most patients are able to stop taking their prescribed pain medication within one week of surgery. Over the counter medications, such as Acetaminophen (Tylenol) and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (e.g. Ibuprofen) may be used as a supplement to or instead of prescribed pain medication.
Six Weeks After Surgery
Patients are typically evaluated with x-ray imaging to check on the placement of hardware and the recovery of the incision site for routine healing. If a brace was required, it no longer needs to be worn except if needed for comfort. The majority of patients will return to work one to two weeks after the procedure, but patients that work physically demanding and labor type jobs should take more time away from work. At six weeks, all patients are able to return to work. Most patients no longer use any prescribed pain medication at six weeks, but may be using over the counter medications as needed. Extremely high impact activities, such as bungee jumping, downhill skiing/snowboarding, or heavy weight lifting, are still discouraged.
Twelve Months After Surgery
Patients typically undergo x-ray imaging again to get flexion (bending to touch the toes) and extension (leaning back at the waist) views of the lumbar spine. These check spinal range of motion and confirm that there is no vertebral sliding because of the implant. All patients are back at work and performing a normal routine. The incision is well healed.
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