Bone Growth Stimulator – A bone growth stimulator uses electrical signals to stimulate the bone growth process after surgery, which increases the rate of fusion x and speeds up the healing process. A bone growth stimulator will be prescribed if appropriate and covered by insurance. Smokers, multilevel fusions, and immune suppression are typical indications for a stimulator. If you were fitted with a bone stimulator, you will need to use the device 4 hours a day for 12 weeks.

Neck braces – Neck braces are only prescribed in unusual cases. Use as directed by your surgeon.

Smoking – You should not smoke for 3 months after surgery. Smoking negatively affects the blood supply to your bones and significantly slows down the fusing and healing process. Once you have stopped smoking, we recommend you remain smoke free for the rest of your life.

Home – There are no modifications required for your home. The Physician determines any modifications and/or special equipment needs at the time of discharge from the hospital. It is recommended that you make arrangements for someone to stay with you the first week after surgery, in case you need assistance. Not all patients will require assistance in the postoperative period.

Wound – The incision should be kept clean and dry. The incision may get wet in the shower and should be patted dry and cleaned with alcohol. Most incisions will have buried sutures and the skin edges will be glued together with Dermabond. Avoid using petroleum based products on the incision for 10 days after surgery.

Pain – It is normal to experience periods of hoarseness, a feeling of fullness in the neck, sore throat and difficulty swallowing. Pain and soreness usually resolves after a couple of weeks, but can last up to 6 weeks after surgery. A prescription will be given to you when you are discharged from the hospital. The oral medication should control your pain. If you have any medication questions or needs please use our medication voicemail, which is available Monday – Friday 8:30 am – 4:00 pm. Prescriptions for pain medicine cannot be changed or refilled outside of our regular office hours or through the answering service.

Activity – Do not participate in any strenuous activity for the first week after surgery. You should not drive for a week. Do not lift anything over 5 pounds for one week and 15 pound for 6 weeks. You may gradually resume normal activity 10-14 days after surgery.

Driving – Do not drive under the influence of pain medications or muscle relaxers. You should not drive until you are off the pain medications and can drive safely and comfortably.


Return to work – The recuperation period is generally 1 month. If you are not involved in extremely strenuous labor, you may be able to return to work 1 – 2 weeks after surgery. If your occupation is physically strenuous, it may require that you be off work for 4-6 weeks. Returning to work is discussed further in your first postoperative visit.

Possible Complications

Urinary Retention – Inability to empty your bladder is common after anesthesia, especially for spinal surgery. It can be incredibly uncomfortable. If associated with increasing numbness or weakness retention or incontinince can represent a surgical problem, but this is rare. Most of the time, medications and/or placement of a catheter with a period of bladder rest will solve the problem. If you are having trouble and unable to urinate, please call and go to a convenient emergency room.

Infection – Although rare, an infection can occur after surgery. The bacteria usually comes from the patient’s own skin. If you have any drainage or increased tenderness or redness around the incision, please call our office. Treatment requires a course of antibiotics  and possibly additional surgery. Infection will prolong your recovery period.

CSF Leak – A cerebrospinal fluid leak from the lining that surrounds your spine may occur. This is unusual, but is more common if you have had previous surgery in the same area. If a leak does occur, it is treated with the placement of a drain near the incision site and several days of complete bed rest in the hospital.


Hematoma – Delayed bleeding in an incision can occur for up to 2-3 weeks after surgery. The blood is usually absorbed naturally but if it affects swallowing or breathing, come to the emergency department immediately for treatment.

Weakness/Paralysis/Numbness – This complication is extremely rare, but the surgery does involve the spinal cord and nerve roots. Paralysis is usually partial and temporary but cases of permanent paralysis have been reported.


DVT – After surgery blood clots in the legs can occur. These usually present as a painful swollen leg. If you think this could be happening you will need an ultrasound to diagnosis the problem. You should go to the closest emergency room to have this evaluated as it can be a life-threatening problem. If you do have a DVT it is treated with blood thinners.

Medical Complications – After surgery and anesthesia there is an increased risk for medical problems such as heart attacks, kidney failure, pneumonia, stroke and even death. If you feel you are having an emergency please go straight to the closest emergency room.

Anterior Cervical Fusion