A Patients' Guide to Outpatient Surgery

8 Planning Tips for Outpatient Spine Surgery

Once you decide to have spine surgery, the next step is to prepare as best you can for both the surgery and the postoperative recovery period. Good planning can help make at-home recovery easier for you. Preparing ahead can allow you to concentrate on important aspects of your aftercare and recovery, such as eating healthy foods, adequate rest, and increasing activity as instructed by your surgeon. The extra effort you (or your family/friends) make now can make your journey on the ‘road to recovery’ smoother.
Woman pouring oil over a prepared salad.Stock your refrigerator/freezer and cabinets with healthy prepared foods. Photo Source: 123RF.com.

Tips to Prepare Your Home

  • Kitchen:
    • Place dishes, pans, and other essentials within arms’ reach so you can avoid bending.
    • Plan on hand washing dishes or using disposable plates, cups, and utensils so that you do not have to reach down to load or unload the dishwasher.
    • Stock your refrigerator/freezer and cabinets with healthy prepared foods. 
  • Bedroom:
    • Talk to your surgeon about the best sleeping position. You may need to add firm/supportive pillows or wedges to help you sleep in a semi-reclined position. Placing a wedge or pillow beneath your knees can help reduce low back stress.
    • Place the telephone and/or mobile phone in a convenient area, such as near your bed or favorite chair.
    • Arrange shoes and clothing at a height within easy reach to avoid bending.
  • Bathroom:
    • Purchase a raised toilet seat, preferably one with arms to assist you when sitting and getting up off the toilet. See Equipment Needs below.
    • Buy or rent a sturdy and nonslip tubseat, bench, or chair to use in the bathtub or shower.
    • Move essential toiletries from lower cabinets within arms’ length.
  • Chairs and car seats: Posture and ergonomics is an important consideration for comfort. To keep your hips and knees perpendicular, use a chair pillow or wedge when sitting.
  • Floor Space: Remove throw rugs to avoid a trip and fall. If your postoperative instructions include avoiding stairs, before surgery is the time to make changes to allow you to stay on one floor (eg, close to a bathroom).

Get Help at Home

Depending on the type of outpatient spine surgery, you may need assistance at home. Plan to have someone stay with you for at least the first day or two. If home assistance (eg, home health care aid) is needed, your surgeon’s staff can help make these arrangements.


Make plans to have someone drive you to and from the outpatient spine surgery center or to call a transportation service. You are not allowed to drive yourself home after surgery.

Ask your surgeon about the best way to sit in the car after surgery. You may need to place a firm pillow or wedge on the passenger seat to make it easier to get into and out of the car. If possible, try to travel in a midsize car so you don’t have to climb up or bend too far down to get into the vehicle.  

Medications, Vitamins, and Supplements

Tell your surgeon the names and dosages of all medications and supplements you take. You may need to stop taking certain drugs, vitamins, herbs, or supplements that could interfere with anesthesia or increase your risk for bleeding. For example, surgeons typically ask you to stop taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen and Indocin (Indomethacin), two weeks before surgery. Talk to your surgeon about other pain medications you can take instead.

Also, medications that thin the blood—such as warfarin (Coumadin) and aspirin—may need to be stopped within a week before your surgery, and blood pressure pills may need to be stopped the day of surgery. Don’t hesitate to ask your surgeon questions about any medications, vitamins, herbs or supplements you take.

To help you remember—bring a list of medications/supplements that you take regularly with you to the outpatient spine surgery center on the day of your spinal surgery.

Stop Smoking

If you smoke, it is important that you stop smoking for at least two weeks before surgery and for six weeks after surgery. Studies have shown that smoking interferes with healing and can lead to surgery complications. Furthermore, smoking is detrimental to your bone health, not just your overall health.

Lose Weight and Exercise

Losing weight (if needed)—even 5 pounds, can have a positive impact on your overall surgical experience. Research shows that people who are severely overweight are more susceptible to infections, problems recovering from anesthesia, and struggles with postoperative recovery.

Focus on eating a healthy, balanced diet so your body has the nutrients it needs to recover from neck or back surgery. Do not crash diet, as this puts too much stress on the body.

In addition, exercise will help keep your muscles strong so you can get the maximum benefit from physical therapy after surgery. In order to prepare, keep moving in the weeks or months leading up to surgery. For example, walking for 30 minutes or more several days each week can set the stage for you to attain maximum benefits later on. The work that you put in now will help you recover faster later.

Donate Your Own Blood
In any type of surgical procedure, loss of blood is a possibility. Your surgeon and/or anesthesiologist will discuss the advantages and disadvantages of donating your own blood (autologous donation) prior to surgery compared to taking donated blood.

Equipment Needs

Your physical therapist and doctor may prescribe medical equipment to help you in your recovery, such as a fitted back brace, walker, elevated commode or toilet seat extender, seat/bench to use in the bathtub or shower, and long-handle reacher/gripper. Check with your insurance company to find out if you have coverage for Durable Medical Equipment (DME), so you can prepare for any copay or equipment that may not be covered by insurance.

Updated on: 08/06/19
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