After Spine Surgery: Waking Up in the Recovery Room


After the operation, the spine surgeon will talk with your family, briefing them on the surgery and giving any instructions. At that time, family and friends may remain in the family waiting area. They will be notified when you are in your room and ready for visitors.

Note: The complexity and length of some spine surgeries may require a stay in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). If admission to the ICU is necessary, your family will be notified.


Waking Up

Typically, anesthesia medications are discontinued when the surgical procedure is complete, allowing you to wake up moments after spine surgery. In some cases, a breathing tube, placed while you were asleep, may still be in your mouth. The breathing tube will be removed as soon as your breathing is normal.

If you are having inpatient surgery, you'll be taken to the Recovery Room, where specially trained staff and equipment monitor patients closely after surgery. While in the recovery room, you might continue to feel quite groggy. In fact, you might not even recall your time in the Recovery Room.

If you have outpatient surgery, you will remain in the recovery room for one to two hours. When you are ready to go home, you will be given discharge instructions and prescriptions. You MUST have someone to drive you home. If, for any reason, your doctor feels you should remain overnight, Piedmont Hospital offers observation care.

That way, you receive the benefit of professional nursing care yet retain your same-day surgery status if you are discharged within 23 hours. If you stay in the hospital past midnight, your insurance company may require your stay to be classified as an inpatient visit and subject to a deductible. We strongly recommend contacting your insurance company about the specifics of your policy.


Possible Side Effects

The most common side effects after anesthesia include nausea, sore throat, and dizziness or headache. The recovery nurses will make you as comfortable as possible and minimize any side effects as you awaken.


What to Expect After Surgery

Once you're more fully awake and your vital signs are stable, you'll be moved by stretcher to your hospital room. Once in your hospital room, the nurse will perform an initial assessment and help you get settled in your room. You can expect:

  • Frequent assessment of your blood pressure, heart and respiratory rates, and temperature
  • Frequent questions about nausea, muscle spasms and pain
  • Frequent questions relating to your spinal surgery and whether you are experiencing any numbness, tingling or weakness
  • Frequent assessment of your surgical dressing

These are very important questions, and although it may seem like we just want to wake you up and bother you, we take these issues very seriously. Your surgeon is depending on us to ask these questions.

When you arrive in your hospital room after surgery, you might have one or more devices attached.  For example:

  • An oxygen tube in your nose
  • An IV tube in your arm
  • A drain in your incision
  • A catheter draining your bladder

Source:  Piedmont Spine Surgery Patient Education Guide

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