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What are spinal surgeries?

The spine or backbone consists of small bones called vertebrae arranged one on top of the other. The vertebrae contain a hole in the center through which the spinal cord passes. In between vertebrae, soft masses of tissue called intervertebral discs are present which protects the vertebrae from damage during movement. Injuries, infections, age-related changes, tumors and other disease conditions like scoliosis or ankylosing spondylitis may cause damage to the spine or the nerve roots emerging from the spinal cord. In patients who do not respond to conservative treatments like physiotherapy and medications, spinal surgery might be the only option.

How are spinal surgeries performed?

In spinal surgery, an opening may be made through the skin and muscles of the back, front or side of the body to reach the spine and rectify the infirmity. Today, with the advancement in technology, many of the procedures may be performed through a small opening using an endoscope or microscope called as minimally invasive spinal surgery (MISS). Lesser damage to muscles around the spine, faster recovery and lesser pain are the advantages of MISS. Other newer methods include artificial disc replacement procedures which completely preserve the mobility of the spine yet confer admirable stability as well.

What to expect after a spinal surgery?

  1. The length of hospital stay after surgery may vary from person to person depending on the type of procedure and the need of the individual.
  2. MISS may require very few days of hospitalization while an open surgery may compel a slightly longer stay at the hospital.
  3. Rest is required immediately after the surgery.
  4. The patient will be on pain medications which will be adjusted as required and small drainage tubes will be present at the site of surgery which will be removed in 2-3 days.
  5. Discharge from the hospital is usually done when there is an improvement in pain and overall health of the patient.
  6. Rest is very important in the first few weeks after surgery. It is advisable to spend almost half the day in bed and the other half moving around during this time.
  7. Lifting, pushing or pulling heavy weights should be avoided and abstain from twisting, stooping or other strenuous movements.
  8. The surgical wound site should always be kept clean and dry and the dressing over the wound site should be changed daily.
  9. Medications to be taken as prescribed by the doctor.
  10. A return visit to the doctor may be required about six weeks after surgery.
  11. Physiotherapy may be required to help in the healing process and will be prescribed by the doctor when indicated.
  12. The time before which the patient is able to return to work will depend on the type of work, type of surgery and overall progress in health. 

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