Discharge Instructions for Spinal Fusion

Discharge Instructions for Spinal Fusion

September 04, 2017

Discharge Instructions for Spinal Fusion

You have just undergone a procedure known as a spinal fusion. During this procedure, your health care provider 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.


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

  • 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. Do this by using a fanny pack, apron, or pockets to carry things. Be sure not to carry too much at once.

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

  • Don’t bend or twist at the waist, or raise your hands over your head for the first 2 week(s) after your surgery.

  • Don’t lift anything heavier than 4 pounds for the first 2 week(s) 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.

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

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

Incision care

  • Check your incision daily or have someone check for you. Look for redness, tenderness, or drainage.

  • Don't soak your wound in water until your doctor says it’s OK. This means no hot tubs, bathtubs, or swimming pools.

  • Wait 3 day(s) after your surgery to begin showering. Then shower as needed. Carefully wash your incision with soap and water. Gently pat it dry. Don’t rub the incision, or apply creams or lotions to it. To avoid falling while showering, use a shower stool.

Other home care

  • Take your pain medicine exactly as directed.

  • Don’t take nonsteroidal, anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen or naproxen, unless directed by your doctor. They may delay or prevent proper fusion of the spine.

  • Continue to wear the support stockings you were given in the hospital. Wear them as instructed by your doctor.

  • Wear your back brace as directed by your doctor.

  • Keep all appointments for physical therapy. During your hospital stay, you should have been given instructions about physical therapy. If not, ask your doctor.


  • Make a follow-up appointment with your healthcare provider, or as advised.

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

Call 911

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

  • Chest pain

  • Shortness of breath

When to call your healthcare provider

Call your healthcare provider right away if any of these occur: 

  • Increased shoulder pain or pain not relieved by medicine

  • Pain or swelling in the arm on the side of your surgery

  • Numbness, tingling, or blue-gray color of your arm or fingers on the side of your surgery

  • Fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher, or as directed by your healthcare provider

  • Shaking chills

  • Increased swelling or redness around the incision

  • Drainage or oozing around the incision

  • Nausea or vomiting


September 04, 2017

Reviewed By:  

Dozier, Tennille, RN, BSN, RDMS,Joseph, Thomas N., MD