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About Your Procedure: Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion

Thank you for choosing the Memorial Hermann Mischer Neuroscience Institute at the Texas Medical Center for your neurological care. Following a neurosurgical procedure, you may have questions about your recovery. The information below will help answer your questions and provide you with instructions for follow-up care.

Follow-Up Plan: You should follow up with our team in the neurosurgery clinic within two weeks of your procedure. After your discharge, our office will contact you to schedule this appointment. If you have not received a phone call from our team within one to two business days from discharge, please contact our office at (713) 704-7100.

Diet

You can resume you normal diet *unless otherwise directed.*

Some patients experience mild to moderate throat soreness or tightness, which may persist for several weeks. However, you should be able to swallow liquids and semisolid foods. If you are unable to swallow liquids or are having difficulty maintaining your normal caloric intake, please call the office.

Activity/Restrictions

The more physically active you are, the faster you will get better. You should increase your physical activity daily, including a gentle range of motion. Walking is encouraged and should be done as tolerated to prevent blood clot formation and pneumonia, as well as to sustain previous activity levels. You may return initially to normal light household chores.

  • Avoid excessive or abrupt neck rotation, bending, tugging or pulling.
  • Avoid hyperextension or flexion of the neck.
  • Do not allow small children or large pets to pull or tug on your arms and neck.
  • Avoid bouncy and/or strenuous activities for at least three months unless otherwise indicated – for example, jumping rope, trampolines, running, riding lawn mowers/tractors and using chain saws.
  • Avoid heavy overhead lifting. Light overhead movement, e.g., hair-washing and grooming, is fine.

Limitations

  • Limit lifting to 10 pounds for the first four weeks.
  • Do not drive while on pain medication.
  • Do not drink alcohol or use tobacco.

Guidelines

  • You can otherwise drive in one to two weeks if you are no longer on pain medication.
  • You may shower.
  • You may wash your hair.
  • You may use the stairs.
  • Depending on job duties, you may return to work anywhere from one week to two months following the procedure. Your return-to-work time will be discussed at your initial post-op evaluation.

Special Equipment

Following surgery you will be given a soft collar, which should be worn in the first one to two weeks as tolerated and should be worn when riding in a vehicle and when walking. You may sleep, shower, sit in a chair or eat without the soft collar.

Incision Care and Hygiene

Following your procedure, you will have Steri-Strips over your incision. Prior to discharge, your physician will most likely remove the dressing and you may leave the incision open to air unless otherwise directed. The Steri-Strips will remain in place and typically fall off on their own.

When you shower in the first five days following surgery, cover the incision and Steri-Strips/sutures/staples with waterproof dressing (available at drugstores) or plastic wrap, taping down the sides. If the incision does get wet, pat dry with a clean, dry towel.

When five days have passed since your procedure, you may get the incision and Steri-Strips wet but do not submerge under water. After showering, pat the incision dry with a clean towel and leave the incision open to air. Do not scrub or pick at the incision. Do not clean the incision with alcohol or peroxide or apply anything else to the incision unless otherwise instructed by our office. If the Steri-Strips have not fallen off by your first postoperative appointment, we will remove them.

You are advised to call the office if you experience:

  • Excessive bleeding
  • Drainage
  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • A temperature higher than 101.5°F
  • Increasing pain
  • Any other symptom that concerns you

Postoperative Pain and Concerns

After surgery, it is common to experience aching, tightness, muscle spasms and/or soreness in the neck, across the shoulders and between the shoulder blades for days or even months following the procedure. These symptoms can be managed with medications provided at discharge.

It is common to experience constipation after surgery as a side effect from pain medication and anesthesia. To combat this side effect and prevent straining (as this may increase your pain), you will be provided with a prescription for a stool softener, which you should take during hospitalization and upon discharge. If you are still unable to have a bowel movement, are experiencing persistent constipation or have any other concerns, call the office at (713) 704-7100.

You may also experience numbness, tingling, burning, or shooting pain in the extremities after surgery. These sensations are normal and may come and go in varying degrees and intensities but should eventually subside. If these symptoms persist or worsen, please call the office.

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy is typically discussed at your two-week follow-up appointment. If physical therapy is required sooner, arrangements will be made prior to discharge. Physical therapy, should you require it, generally commences three to four weeks following surgery.

Medication Instructions See your medication reconciliation form for instructions. You will mostly likely resume all previous home medications and should follow up with your prescribing physician for additional instructions. Prescriptions will be provided, and may be filled at the hospital-associated pharmacy prior to discharge. Prescriptions are given for pain, constipation and/or muscle spasms. If you require aspirin, you usually may resume taking it within 24 to 48 hours after surgery; please confirm prior to discharge.

Again, thank you for choosing the Mischer Neuroscience Institute. Please contact us at (713) 704-7100 should you have any questions.