A Guide For Home Caregivers
Caring For The Spine Surgery Patient At Home
You play an important role in helping your friend or loved one recover from spine surgery. When at home, there are a variety of things you need to know regarding how best to provide for the patient's safety, recovery, and comfort. This brochure will help answer many of the questions and concerns you may have as you prepare to care for your spine surgery patient.
Home Safety and Avoiding Falls
- Pick up throw rugs and tack down loose carpeting. Cover slippery surfaces with carpets that are firmly anchored to the floor or that have non-skid backs.
- Place regularly used items such as remote controls, medications, and reading materials, in easy-to-reach locations
- Widen furniture paths to accommodate a walker or cane
- Place frequently used cooking supplies and utensils where they can be easily reached by the patient without too much bending or stretching
- Be aware of all floor hazards such as pets, small objects, or uneven surfaces
- Provide good lighting throughout the home. Install nightlights in the bathrooms, bedrooms, and hallways.
- Keep extension cords and telephone cords out of pathways. Do NOT run wires under rugs; this is a fire hazard
- Do not let patient lift heavy objects for the first three months and then only with the surgeon's permission
- Un-tuck bedding to allow for easier access into and out of the patient's bed
- The patient's appetite may be poor. Make sure they drink plenty of fluids to keep them from becoming dehydrated. Their desire for solid food should return.
- Spine surgery patients may have difficulty sleeping, which is normal. Do not let the patient sleep or nap too much during the day.
- The patient's energy level will be decreased for the first month
- Pain medication that contains narcotics promotes constipation. Follow the surgeon's recommendations for using stool softeners or laxatives if necessary.
- Keep the incision dry
- If the incision is still draining, then a light dry dressing should be placed over the wound. Staples or sutures are often removed within the first one to two weeks following surgery. If the patient's wound is closed with absorbable subcutaneous sutures, they will dissolve in approximately six to eight weeks. The patient should request showering/bathing instructions from surgeon.
- Notify the surgeon if there is increased drainage, redness, pain, odor, or heat around the incision
- Take the patient's temperature if he or she feels warm or nauseous. Call the surgeon if patient's temperature exceeds normal, which is 98.6º F.
Changing the Dressing (ONLY IF DIRECTED BY SURGEON)
- Wash hands
- Prior to performing any dressing changes, open all dressing change materials
- Prior to removing the dressing from the patient, Inspect the incision for:
- Redness, drainage, and unusual odors
- Increased temperature
- If Betadine is ordered by the surgeon, then the swab should be gently painted around the skin wound edges. The dressing should be touched from the edges and not in the middle. Once the dressing is over the wound, then tape can be adhered to the edges of the dressing. If the patient is experiencing a rash in the area of the adhesive tape, then consideration should be given to using paper tape.
- Administer pain medicine to patient at least 30 minutes before physical therapy
- Encourage patient to gradually wean them from prescription medication. Follow the surgeon's recommendations for taking over-the-counter medication in place of prescription medication.
- Use ice for pain control. Applying ice to the affected area will decrease discomfort, but do not use for more than 20 minutes at a time each hour. Use ice before and after the patient exercises according to their prescribed program.
Signs of Infection
- Typical signs of infection include:
- Increased swelling and redness surrounding the incision site
- Occasional drainage at incision site, and if bacteria is present, an odor will be noticed
- Increased pain in the back region and often radiating into the buttock, thigh and leg area
- Temperature that exceeds 98.6ºF, with some of the surrounding tissue sensitive to touch