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After surgery, patients are routinely admitted to the Intensive Care Unit where they have focused nursing care. Appropriate pain management is emphasized. Many patients have a catheter placed against the spinal cord and pain medication is pumped directly onto the cord. This treats pain where it exists without causing the patient to be unable to follow requests or commands.
The day after surgery, some patients may be able to sit in a chair and walk one or two steps. By the third day, patients can stand and walk and by the fourth day will often be walking the halls.
After discharge, which is routinely on the fifth day, patients begin the rehabilitation process. Patients from out of town are transferred to a rehabilitation hospital to spend another week regaining the ability to perform normal activities of daily living. Discharge from rehabilitation usually occurs 2 to 2-1/2 weeks after surgery.
After surgery, some patients need to wear a light thermo-plastic brace for about three months. Patients do not have to sleep or bathe in the brace.
How Long Does Recovery Take?Each case is evaluated on an individual basis as the recovery process takes place. Most adults can return to light duty work in eight to 12 weeks. Most pediatric patients are able to return to school within three to four weeks. We set long-term goals with each patient and review them at 6-month and yearly intervals or for as long as the patient and physician deem necessary.
There are milestones of improvement during recovery. There is the first week leading up to discharge from the hospital. When a person can walk again, is eating regular food and putting on and taking off his or her brace, he or she really feels that he or she has made a great step forward.
The second big milestone is often discharge from rehabilitation which is usually about 2 - 2-1/2 weeks total time from surgery.
The next milestone is usually driving. Some patients start to drive as soon as one month. Often patients may drive short distances after one month as long as you are comfortable using your mirrors; however, because of issues with medications and physical limitations, it is always best to consult with your physician before beginning to drive after surgery. You must wear your brace while driving.
After that, the milestones become harder to define. The best milestone is when patients realize they don't need pain medication any longer.
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