spineI wanted to share an article I found by John E. Sherman, M.D., giving information   on how to prepare for back surgery both before and after.  I sometimes think that when faced with the possibility of surgery, many of my clients are pre-occupied with all of the other worries they have (“Will this help my pain?”, “How am I going to pay my bills while I am recovering?”, “Will my life ever be back to normal?”) and some of this information may not be at the forefront of their thoughts.


The information provided in Dr. Sherman’s article is meant only to get you thinking about precautions and preparations you could take and questions to ask your doctor.  This information is in NO WAY meant to be medical advice – ALWAYS discuss this information with your doctor before taking any action!


Preoperative Preparation for Spine Fusion Surgery

By: John E. Sherman, MD  (taken from www.spine-health.com)


“Spinal fusion surgery is recommended for different indications, but the goal remains the same—to stop the motion at a painful motion segment. At times the spine fusion surgery is scheduled quickly and there is little time to prepare. More often, however, a spine fusion surgery is elective and there is time to plan.


Although a spine fusion surgery may be done at different levels throughout the spine (cervical, thoracic and lumbar sections of the spine), the preoperative preparation is similar for each type of fusion.”


Additional Studies Before Spine Fusion Surgery

“There may be a need for additional studies prior to spine fusion surgery. These types of tests may entail:

Radiograph to assess spinal instability

Myelogram, MRI, or CAT scan to identify nerve compression

EMG to test nerve function


All of these tests are done with the goal of more precisely planning the back surgery.”


General Health Assessment Prior to Back Surgery

“It is usually necessary to be evaluated by a medical doctor (family practitioner, internist or pediatrician) to ensure the patient is in good medical condition before proceeding with spine fusion surgery.

If there are specific preexisting medical conditions, further assessments by a specialist may also be useful (e.g., cardiologist, pulmonologist or nephrologist). It is important for patients to optimize their general health prior to a spine fusion surgery or any type of back surgery.”


Maximize the Ability to Heal After Spine Fusion Surgery

“One of the risks of any spine fusion surgery is a lack of healing of the bone graft, which is known as a pseudarthrosis. There are a number of factors that can affect this outcome after spine fusion surgery. These can include:


*Poor nutrition


*Previous back surgery

*Multiple level spine fusion surgery

*Severe deformities

*Medications (e.g. non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, cortisone and chemotherapy)



Smoking and Spine Fusion

“Clearly some of the factors affecting the success of spine fusion surgery are outside of the patient’s control. Others are not. In particular, the evidence linking cigarette smoking and pseudarthrosis is very strong, and it has been clearly demonstrated that nicotine inhibits the bone growing cells (osteoblasts), which are necessary to achieve a successful spine fusion.


For patients with back pain and/or planning a spine fusion surgery, the best time to quit smoking is right away. There is no appropriate time start again. Smoking has no health benefits and an overwhelming number of health risks, including the risk of back pain and the risk of failed spine fusion surgery. At the very least, the patient needs to commit to not smoking for at least three months after the spine fusion surgery, as this is the most critical time for bone healing.”


Exercise Prior to Spine Fusion Surgery

“Spine fusions are usually recommended because your ability to do daily activities is restricted.


You should try to take daily walks or do other aerobic exercise. Even a small bit of activity is better than no activity at all. Your physician may even request that you attend physical therapy to enhance your level of conditioning prior to surgery.”



Remember folks, THIS IS NOT MEDICAL ADVICE, it is just information I wanted to provide to you to help keep you on top of things.


If you are facing the possibility of having surgery as the result of a work injury, it is ALWAYS a good idea to consult with an attorney to ensure your rights are protected.  My staff is knowledgeable, friendly and waiting to assist you; please do not hesitate to contact my office.