Cervical Spinal Fusion: Before Your Surgery

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What is cervical spinal fusion?

The spine

Cervical spinal fusion is surgery that joins two or more of the vertebrae in your neck. When these bones are joined together, it's called fusion. After the joints are fused, they can no longer move.

During the surgery, the doctor uses bone to make a "bridge" between your vertebrae. This bridge is strengthened with metal plates and screws. In most cases, the doctor uses bone from another part of your body or bone that has been donated to a bone bank. But sometimes artificial bone is used.

To do the surgery, the doctor makes a cut in either the front or the back of your neck. The cut is called an incision. It leaves a scar that fades with time.

After surgery, you will stay in the hospital for a few days. Your neck will feel stiff or sore. You will get medicine to help with pain.

Most people can go back to work after 4 to 6 weeks. But it may take a few months to get back to all of your usual activities.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

What happens before surgery?

Surgery can be stressful. This information will help you understand what you can expect. And it will help you safely prepare for surgery.

Preparing for surgery

  • Understand exactly what surgery is planned, along with the risks, benefits, and other options.
  • Tell your doctors ALL the medicines, including natural health products, such as vitamins, supplements, and herbal remedies you take. Some of these can increase the risk of bleeding or interact with anesthesia.
  • If you take blood thinners, such as warfarin (Coumadin), clopidogrel (Plavix), or aspirin, be sure to talk to your doctor. He or she will tell you if you should stop taking these medicines before your surgery. Make sure that you understand exactly what your doctor wants you to do.
  • Your doctor will tell you which medicines to take or stop before your surgery. You may need to stop taking certain medicines a week or more before surgery. So talk to your doctor as soon as you can.
  • If you have an advance care plan, let your doctor know. If you don't have one, you may want to prepare one. It lets your doctor and loved ones know your health care wishes. Doctors advise that everyone prepare these papers before any type of surgery or procedure.

What happens on the day of surgery?

  • Follow the instructions exactly about when to stop eating and drinking. If you don't, your surgery may be cancelled. If your doctor told you to take your medicines on the day of surgery, take them with only a sip of water.
  • Take a bath or shower before you come in for your surgery. Do not apply lotions, perfumes, deodorants, or nail polish.
  • Do not shave the surgical site yourself.
  • Take off all jewellery and piercings. And take out contact lenses, if you wear them.

At the hospital or surgery centre

  • Bring a picture ID.
  • The area for surgery is often marked to make sure there are no errors.
  • You will be kept comfortable and safe by your anesthesia provider. You will be asleep during the surgery.
  • The surgery usually takes about 1 to 1½ hours.
  • When you wake up, you will be lying on your back. You will have a soft or hard collar around your neck. This will protect and support your neck. It will also keep you from turning your head.
  • You may have a small plastic tube coming out of your incision. This is to drain fluids. It's usually taken out in 1 or 2 days.

Going home

  • Be sure you have someone to drive you home. Anesthesia and pain medicine make it unsafe for you to drive.
  • You will be given more specific instructions about recovering from your surgery. They will cover things like diet, wound care, follow-up care, driving, and getting back to your normal routine.

When should you call your doctor?

  • You have questions or concerns.
  • You do not understand how to prepare for your surgery.
  • You become ill before surgery (such as fever, flu or a cold).
  • You need to reschedule or have changed your mind about having the surgery.

Where can you learn more?

Go to http://www.healthwise.net/ed

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Current as of: May 23, 2016