Spine surgery FAQs
If you have been advised that surgery is recommended for your back or neck problem, you may have a number of questions. Many of them are answered below. For more information, talk to your surgeon or a member of the surgical team.
How are spine surgeries scheduled?
Once the decision to schedule surgery has been made, Twin Cities Spine Center business office staff and Patient Liaison will begin the process of obtaining authorization from your insurance. Once authorization is obtained, the secretaries will work with you to set a date and time for your surgery. Nurse clinicians will help you learn about and prepare for surgery.
What will I need to do to get ready for spine surgery?
A nurse clinician works with each Twin Cities Spine Center surgeon to coordinate the preparation and education of all surgical patients. Patients receive educational materials and support throughout the preoperative process.
All patients undergoing surgery will need a history and physical performed by their family physician. Occasionally, if the surgeon deems it necessary, patients will donate or have blood donated for them as they prepare for surgery. The secretary would discuss this with you during the scheduling process. Other preparations may include additional diagnostic testing, consultations with medical specialists and brace fittings.
The day before surgery, patients complete surgery preparations that may include skin and/or bowel cleansing and diet restrictions. The nurse clinician and handouts provide the details of these preparations and guide patients as they prepare for surgery.
What if I need forms (such as disability or FMLA) completed by my provider?
Please alert your physician care team if you have forms to be completed. Some forms, such as work ability, can be completed during your visit. Other forms, such as disability forms or FMLA, may require additional time for review and completion. If your form cannot be completed during your visit, your physician care team will send those forms to the medical/legal department to be completed and returned.
When will I be admitted to the hospital?
Patients are instructed to arrive at the hospital on the day they are scheduled for spine surgery. The secretary will instruct patients on arrival times.
How long will I stay in the hospital?
Some spine surgeries are performed on an outpatient basis, while others require a hospital stay. As a part of the surgery discussion, the physician will provide an estimated length of hospitalization. However, discharge from the hospital is more dependent on the achievement of certain goals than an estimated number of days. These goals include pain management, tolerance of activity and an understanding of discharge teaching.
What may happen while I'm in the hospital?
No two hospitalizations are alike. Pathways, which outline the usual course of a hospital stay, are given to most patients. Physicians and nurse clinicians will also describe what patients may expect while hospitalized.
What happens when I'm discharged?
You may be asked to complete a discharge assessment form before spine surgery. This assessment helps clinic and hospital staff identify patients who may need additional care at discharge, such as transfer to a transitional care facility, home care, physical therapy and/or medical equipment. Most patients will not need additional services and can care for themselves at discharge.
Twin Cities Spine Center employs a full-time licensed social worker who can assist with the coordination of services before and/or after surgery if needed.
What follow-up do I need to do after spine surgery?
Most patients are seen in the clinic six weeks after spine surgery. Additional follow-up is determined at this first visit. You may be seen at intervals for up to a year or more depending on the type of surgery performed. The physician and staff will give you instruction on follow-up visits.
You may periodically be sent an Oswestry (or neck) Disability Index questionnaire to complete and mail back to us. Please take the time to complete the form—it is an important part of how we measure the effectiveness of the care that we provide.
When should I contact the surgeon or clinic after spine surgery?
Contact the spine surgeon's staff at any time with questions or concerns after discharge from the hospital. Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., call 612.775.6200 to speak to a nurse clinician. After business hours, on weekends and on holidays, contact the on-call physician at 612.775.6200.
Report any of the following occurrences immediately. If you are unable to reach your surgeon, you should be seen by your primary doctor that day or be seen in an urgent care or emergency department.
- Incision problems—infections following incisions are rare, however these symptoms may indicate an infection.
- Redness or inflammation.
- Increased pain or tenderness.
- Localized warmth.
- Drainage from the incision.
- Opening or pulling apart of the incision.
- Body chills and/or excessive sweating.
- Fever over 100 degrees F, or 38 degrees C.
- Pain—some pain is to be expected after spine surgery, but excessive pain and any new or unusual pain at the incision or anywhere should be reported immediately.
- Calf pain or tenderness.
- Chest pain or shortness of breath, which may indicate the presence of blood clots.
- Changes in motion and/or sensation—report any significant change in sensation, such as numbness or tingling not relieved by rest or position change. Also call if you experience an inability to move extremities or changes in muscle coordination.
- Urination and bowel movements—immediately report any loss of bowel or bladder control or any burning or urgency with urination.
How do I manage pain medications after surgery?
Your first visit: Understanding your medication history is an important part of your care. At your visit, we will review your medication history and confirm medications that you are currently taking. You will need to work with your current prescribing provider to continue any existing prescriptions. We will not manage or take over a prescription ordered by another provider.
Before and after surgery: If you are currently taking prescription pain medication it may be necessary to taper or decrease the amount of pain medicine before you have surgery in order for you to have a successful post-surgery recovery.
We will assist you with managing postoperative pain medicines for a period of time that is appropriate for the procedure performed. Your provider will work with you to make a plan to decrease or taper your use of pain medicines or will refer you to a provider with expertise in the medical management of chronic pain.
Important responsibilities regarding controlled substances: Because prescription pain medicines (controlled substances) have potential for abuse, strict accountability is necessary.
Prescription pain medicines need to be taken exactly as prescribed by your Twin Cities Spine Center provider.
- Medications should come from only one provider care team and be filled at the same pharmacy.
- Taking more medicine than prescribed, misuse or abuse of these medications will necessitate stopping prescribing altogether.
- Strict adherence to your medical treatment program and attendance at follow-up appointments is required.
These medicines may be hazardous to someone who is not tolerant to their effects, especially a child, and it is important that you keep your prescription pain medicines secure. If your medications are lost, stolen or destroyed, they will not be replaced.
Medication refills: Twin Cities Spine Center providers do not routinely manage patient's pain medications. If medications are prescribed for you please review the following information.
Postoperative patients will receive specific information about refills during the postoperative period.
Medications are refilled Monday through Friday during business hours only, between 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Medications are not refilled on evenings or weekends.
Please call your pharmacy to request non-narcotic medication. Your pharmacy will notify Twin Cities Spine Center regarding your refill.
All narcotic medications now require a written prescription from your Twin Cities Spine Center provider. These medications must be mailed to your pharmacy. These narcotics cannot be called in or sent via fax to your pharmacy.
Please allow 72 hours for refill requests to be addressed. A nurse clinician or physician's assist may contact you if there are any questions about your request for a refill.
For more information, read our medication and prescription policy.