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Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Will I have pain after surgery?
  2. I’m having numbness and tingling. Is this normal after surgery?
  3. What kinds of activity can I do after surgery?
  4. Can I swim or get my incision wet?
  5. When can I go back to work?
  6. I have a sore throat and/or hoarseness. Is this common?
  7. Where should I get my x-rays?
  8. What if I run out of my pain medication? Can I get a refill?
  9. What if my incision starts to drain or leak?
  10. What if I have problems over the weekend? Is there anyone I can call?
  11. I think I’ve had a reaction to a medication. What should I do?
  12. I’m having trouble sleeping after my surgery. Is there anything I can take?
  13. I have a persistent fever, could I have an infection?

1. Will I have pain after surgery?
Pain is common following surgery but should gradually resolve. You will be prescribed pain medications to help with the pain. You should take it as directed. You can supplement with over-the-counter medications, but you should avoid taking additional Tylenol with many of the common pain medications. Heat or ice may also be helpful after surgery.
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2. I’m having numbness and tingling. Is this normal after surgery?
You may experience numbness and/or tingling after spinal surgery. This occurs as the nerves heal. If these were symptoms you experienced before surgery, they may not resolve spontaneously. However, gradual improvement is expected.
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3. What kinds of activity can I do after surgery?
You should perform light activities such as short walks. Limit walks to 5-10 minutes each. You will need several breaks throughout the day. Avoid stairs for the first 1-2 weeks. You may perform light cooking, but you should not lift or pull objects weighing more than 5-10 pounds. You can travel as a passenger in a car, but you should not drive for the first 1-2 weeks.
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4. Can I swim or get my incision wet?
This depends on the type of the surgery you have had. If you have glue on your incision, you may shower. Do not allow the area to get wet for longer than 3 minutes. You should not get in a swimming pool, bathtub or Jacuzzi for at least 4 weeks or until you have been released by your doctor. If you have stitches or staples in your incision, these will remain for up to 14 days. Please follow your doctor’s instructions about the care of your incision.
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5. When can I go back to work?
Your return to work depends on the type of work you do and the type of surgery you have had. If you perform heavy labor, you may not be able to return for up to 8 weeks after surgery. Generally, patients are able to return to light-duty work 2 weeks after spinal surgery. Most patients can return to work within a few days following carpal tunnel surgery or ulnar nerve decompression. If your employer can accommodate you with modified duty, then you should be able to return within the first month after surgery.
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6. I have a sore throat and/or hoarseness. Is this common?
Yes. Patients frequently experience irritation to the throat and/or voice after surgery. This is particularly due to the tube placed for airway maintenance during surgery. You can use throat spray and/or lozenges for comfort measures. You may also try drinking extra fluids. The irritation should gradually improve over the first 1-2 weeks after your surgery but if you experience symptoms lasting longer than this or additional problems with speech or swallowing, please call the office.
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7. Where should I get my x-rays?
Depending on your insurance, you can either have them completed at Radiology Associates, Capital Health Plan, TPCA, or Tallahassee Memorial Hospital. You will not need an appointment to have these completed. You must bring your films to the follow-up appointment unless you have been to Radiology Associates.
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8. What if I run out of my pain medication? Can I get a refill?
If you require additional pain medication, please call the office and leave a message for the nurse detailing your request. Please allow up to 48 hours for us to process your request. Please do not leave more than one message, as this may prolong the processing of your request.
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9. What if my incision starts to drain or leak?
Occasionally, your incision may ooze some fluid in the early post-operative period. Typically, this fluid is yellowish to reddish in color. However, if you experience fever of 100.5 or greater, have redness around the incision or increasing pain at the incision site, or drainage that has a bad odor, please call the office to make an appointment with a nurse. If you have had spinal surgery and experience drainage that is completely clear and is associated with a headache, please call the office immediately.
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10. What if I have problems over the weekend? Is there anyone I can call?
In the event of a life-threatening emergency, you should call 911 immediately for emergency medical treatment. If you experience a problem over the weekend or after normal business hours that you feel needs to be addressed as soon as possible, you should go to a local Urgent Care facility or to your local Emergency Room for evaluation.
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11. I think I’ve had a reaction to a medication. What should I do?
If you feel that your symptoms have been caused by a reaction to a medication, please call the office so this can be documented in your chart. If you feel that your symptoms have been caused by a reaction to a medication, please call the office so this can be documented in your chart. If you are experiencing difficulty breathing or have the sensation of swelling in your throat, please call 911 or go to the Emergency Room as soon as possible. For mild reactions such as a rash and/or itching, you can try over-the-counter medications such as Benadryl, Claritin, Zyrtec, or similar anti-histamine products.
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12. I’m having trouble sleeping after my surgery. Is there anything I can take?
You may experience difficulty sleeping after surgery. This can be related to anesthesia or side effects from certain medications. You can try Benadryl for a few nights and this should help. If you are still unable to sleep, please talk to your pharmacist or contact your primary care physician.
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13. I have a persistent fever, could I have an infection?
Mild elevations in temperature are not uncommon after surgery. Generally, if your fever occurs 1-3 days after surgery, the cause for the fever is related to the lungs rather than the surgical site. This is especially common if you are a smoker. Patients need to improve breathing technique (inhale deeply and exhale completely) to improve ventilation and lessen the risk for complications (ie: pneumonia) after surgery. You may receive a device called an incentive spirometer that will assist in helping you to breathe in this manner. It is recommended that you use this frequently throughout the day in the early postoperative period. Follow your doctor’s instructions to achieve the best possible results.
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