COVID-19 and Spine Surgery: Tips for Patients

By Gunwant Mallik, MD, FAANS, MBA

Over the past several months, many elective surgeries, including spine surgeries, have been placed on hold. As the Coronavirus begins to subside and States reopen for business, these elective surgeries are starting to be scheduled and performed at both hospitals and outpatient surgery centers. This is good news for patients suffering with neck or back discomfort and associated challenges. Here are a few tips for proceeding with your spine surgery during the COVID-19 pandemic. 


Engage Telemedicine before Surgery 

In the weeks leading up to your spine surgery, continue to engage with your surgeon and their staff to keep your surgery on track and to ensure you are complying with their pre-operative orders. It is important to meet with your surgeon when scheduled to ensure your surgery proceeds as planned. 


Positive Thinking for Good Health 

Your mindset can affect just about everything – including your health. A positive mindset can make a bad day good, and it can also give your immune system a positive boost. Negativity, fear and anxiousness can have the opposite effect and weaken your immune system. When you think about your surgery, think about all the things you will be able to do after you recover. Think about going for a swim in the ocean, teeing off at a local club with friends or just playing catch with your son. Keep the good vibes going and keep your immune system strong to better fight COVID-19 or any other potential infection. 


Mind Your Meds 

Remember to continue to take the medications your surgeon has ordered and nothing else. It is important to not deviate from your medication plan by taking unauthorized medications, vitamins or other drugs even, if you believe these will help you stay healthy and prevent you from becoming ill with the Coronavirus. Any deviation from your approved medication plan may delay your surgery. 


Be Screened or Tested 

You most likely will be screened or tested several days prior to your surgery, and again when you arrive at the healthcare facility the day of your surgery. A screening takes place when you are asked a series of questions about how you are feeling and if you have any symptoms that could be related to the Coronavirus. A test is when a swab is taken from your nasal passages or your saliva and is then sent to a lab for testing. 

If you do have symptoms or if your test comes back positive for the Coronavirus, your surgery may be postponed until you are well and are medically-cleared to have your spine surgery. 


Wear Your Mask 

When preparing for your hospital stay, make sure to pack only the items requested by the surgical staff. It is important to not over pack or bring unnecessary items as there is limited storage room at the surgical facility or in your hospital room. Also, remember to bring a face mask with you. You will need to wear it when you enter the hospital or surgery center on the day of your surgery. 


Limit Caregivers 

In order to ensure social distancing is practiced, many healthcare institutions are limiting the number of caregivers and family members that may accompany the patient on the day of surgery. Recently, many facilities have restricted patients to one person or caregiver only at the time of surgery. Call your surgeon’s office to find out what the visitor restrictions are at the healthcare facility where you will be having your surgery. 


Stay Connected Virtually 

With the continued threat of the Coronavirus looming, many hospitals and ambulatory surgery centers are limiting the number and age of hospital and surgery center visitors. Most facilities will only allow persons 21 or over to visit and are restricting visitors to one family member. Some institutions are not allowing any visitors at all. Call the surgery center or hospital where you will be having your surgery and ask about their visitor policy. 

In order to stay connected with family and friends during your hospital stay, remember to bring your cell phone or tablet and a charger. A nurse or other hospital employee can assist in getting your device plugged in and setup so you can speak with your loved ones. 

Staying healthy and positive in the weeks leading up to your spine surgery is very important. Following your surgeon’s and healthcare staff’s advice and guidance will ensure a smooth surgical experience and a quick, full recovery. 

Important Note: The patient information presented is for general education purposes only. As with any spine surgery, there are potential benefits, complications, and risks associated with disc replacement and spinal fusion procedures. Individual results may vary. It is important that you discuss the possible risks and potential benefits of various procedures with your doctor prior to receiving treatment, and that you rely on your physician’s best judgment. Only your doctor can determine whether you are a suitable candidate for a specific surgical procedure.

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