Before your surgery, you may be required to see your primary care physician or another physician if you do not have one. This physician will help to determine if you are healthy enough to have surgery. This is referred to as medical clearance. They will likely draw lab work and may do an EKG or chest x-ray. If you have heart problems in your past, you may be required to see a cardiologist have them say it is okay for you to have surgery. This is referred to as cardiac clearance.
Some outpatient surgery centers and hospitals require you to report to their facility a week or so before your scheduled surgery for an appointment. This is referred to as a pre-admission appointment. They may have you sign a consent form for the surgery or do additional lab work.
You will be required to stop taking all blood-thinning medications (anticoagulants) 7 days prior to surgery. Blood-thinning medications include all non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) such as aspirin, ibuprofen, Motrin, Alleve, naproxen, Naprosyn, meloxicam and many cardiac medications including but not limited to warfarin, coumadin, Lovenox, enoxaparin, Aggrenox and others. Ask your primary care physician or cardiologist which of your medications thins the blood. Many herbal and natural medications also thin blood, so you should stop taking these 7 days before surgery as well. If you take any of these medications within 7 days prior to your surgery, you must tell Dr. Valente. Your surgery will likely be rescheduled for your safety. You can restart all of these medications 7 days after surgery unless discussed with Dr. Valente and your other physicians directly.
Your anesthesiologist may also call you the night before your surgery to discuss any questions and concerns you may have. You usually will be asked to report to your hospital or outpatient center for a pre-admission appointment. Your pre-admission appointment may involve lab tests and other tests, and an interview with a nurse and member of the staff prior to your surgery.
On the day of your surgery, the admitting office staff will check you in and give you an ID bracelet. After admission, you will be taken to a surgery preparation area. When you arrive in the surgery preparation room, a nurse will take your temperature, blood pressure, and ask about your medical history.
If you have not signed your surgical consent form, you will be asked to do so. Your doctor will be available to answer any questions that you may have.
An anesthesiologist may call you the night before your surgery and will talk to you on the day of surgery. This is the time to discuss any questions or concerns you may have.
An intravenous line will be started in the surgery preparation room. This will be used to administer medications for anesthesia and to replace body fluids lost during surgery.
On the night before surgery, you should not have anything to eat or drink after midnight. On the morning of your surgery, you can take your medications (as long as they don’t thin your blood) with a very small sip of water only (no more than two tablespoons). If you eat or drink after midnight, your surgery will be canceled.
Two hours before your scheduled surgery time you should check-in at the outpatient surgery center or hospital. You will be asked to change into a hospital gown. A nurse will interview you and make sure you haven’t eaten or drank anything since midnight. She will have you sign any necessary consent forms that you haven’t already signed. They will then check your vital signs and draw any remaining lab work or ask for a urine sample if needed. Next, the nurse will start an IV. This will be used to administer your anesthesia, and to keep you hydrated during surgery.
A technician will explain to you that they will be monitoring your nerves and spinal cord during surgery. This is referred to as neuromonitoring. The technician may put small sticky pads on your arms and legs. A brace will be delivered to you to use after surgery if needed.
Dr. Valente and an anesthesiologist will also be available to answer any of your final questions and concerns.
Next, you will be taken back to the operating room by your nurse. Three small, sticky patches will be placed on your chest and hooked up to heart rate monitors. An automatic blood pressure cuff will also be placed on your arm.
After surgery, regardless of the type of anesthesia that you receive, you will be taken to a recovery area where you will receive continuous care by a trained recovery room nurse. Your vital signs will be monitored along with any dressing that was applied after surgery.
Your family members should be in the waiting room before the end of your surgery time so that Dr. Valente can speak to them. If they need to leave, it is best to do so at the beginning of your surgery to avoid missing the surgeon at the completion of your surgery. Dr. Valente will let your family know how you are doing and answer questions, letting them know whether you require hospitalization or whether you will be discharged home.
You may experience blurred vision, dry mouth, chills, and a sore throat. If you experience some discomfort in the area of your surgery, do not hesitate to ask for pain medication. Be sure to report your pain by scale (0 = no pain, 10 = worst pain).
Over the last 20 years, spinal surgery has become gradually less and less invasive. More advanced methods are used to allow for a simpler, quicker recovery. Dr. Valente stays skilled on the latest state-of-the-art minimally-invasive methods to provide you with a safe, quick recovery.
No two surgeries are alike, so an estimate on recovery time that is ideal for someone else won’t be the right amount of time you’ll need to recover.
If surgery is minimally invasive, recovery time is usually a day or two. In more complicated procedures, like fusions, recovery time could be anywhere from two-six weeks until you can return to light duty at work. In any situation, it is best to allow for ample time for recovery. Speak to Dr. Valente about your specific situation and recovery time. In addition to this surgery guide, you may download post-op instructions here.