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Discharge Instructions for Lumbar Fusion

You had a lumbar fusion. During this procedure, your doctor locked together (fused) some of the bones in your spine. This limits the movement of these bones to help relieve your pain. Here’s what you need to know about home care following a spinal fusion.

Activity:

  • Arrange your household to keep the items you need within reach.

  • Remove electrical cords, throw rugs, and anything else that may cause you to fall.

  • Use a walker or handrails until your balance, flexibility, and strength improve. And remember to ask for help from others when you need it.

  • Free up your hands so that you can use them to keep balance. Use a fanny pack, apron, or pockets to carry things. Be sure not to carry too much at once.

  • Don’t bend or twist at the waist, or raise your hands over your head for the first two weeks after your surgery.

  • Don’t lift anything heavier than 4 pounds for the first two weeks after surgery.

  • Don’t sit for more than 30 to 45 minutes at a time. Take frequent short walks. They are the key to your recovery.

  • Don’t drive until your doctor says it’s OK. And never drive while you are taking narcotic pain medication.

  • Nap if you are tired, but don’t stay in bed all day.

  • Use chairs with arms. The arms make it easier for you to stand up and sit down.

  • If you have not yet received instructions about physical therapy, ask your doctor about them.

Incision Care:

  • Check your incision daily for redness, tenderness, or drainage.

  • Don’t soak your wound in water (no hot tubs, bathtubs, swimming pools) until your doctor says it’s OK.

  • Wait three days after your surgery to begin showering. Then shower as needed. Carefully wash your incision with soap and water. Gently pat the incision dry. Don’t rub it, or apply creams or lotions. And if you feel unsteady while standing to shower, use a shower stool or chair.

Other Home Care:

  • Use nonslip bath mats, grab bars, an elevated toilet seat, and a shower chair in your bathroom.

  • Take your medication exactly as directed.

  • Don’t take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen. They may delay or prevent proper fusion of the spine.

  • If you smoke, stop! This will be one of the most important things you can do to help you recover from surgery. 

  • Wear the support stockings you were given in the hospital, as instructed by your doctor.

  • Wear your back brace, if one was prescribed, as directed by your doctor.

Follow-Up:

  • Keep appointments for X-rays. They will be taken often to check the status of the spinal fusion.

  • Make appointments for physical therapy, as instructed by your doctor.

  • Arrange to have your staples removed two weeks after surgery.

 

When to Seek Medical Attention

Call 911 right away if you have any of the following:

  • Chest pain

  • Shortness of breath

  • Trouble controlling your bowels or bladder

Otherwise, call your doctor immediately if you have any of the following:

  • Fever above 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius) or shaking chills

  • Increased drainage, redness, tenderness, or swelling at the incision site

  • Opening of the incision

  • Increased pain, numbness, or tingling in either leg

  • Loss of movement in one or both legs

 

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