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Postoperative Care

Day Surgery Unit

Not all patients having spine surgery require an overnight stay. If you do not then you are returned to the day surgery unit where nurses will monitor you and prepare you for discharge.

Inpatient Unit

After your spine surgery, those requiring an overnight stay will be admitted to the Neuroscience Unit (NSU). This is where you will receive specialized care by nurses specifically trained to take care of patients that have undergone spine surgery.

Vital Signs

The nursing staff in the NSU will continue to monitor your vital signs including blood pressure, pulse and temperature after your surgery. They will need to continue monitoring you even at night when you may be asleep. To monitor your oxygen saturation a nurse may place a probe on your finger or your ear. You will be instructed on deep breathing and use of a special device called an incentive spirometer. You may also receive supplemental oxygen to assist your breathing. Movement is important to your recovery so the staff will be getting you up on the day of surgery to prevent complications and promote recovery.


Your dressings will be checked and monitored for drainage. Some patients may have a tube coming from the dressing to a collection container, this is a surgical drain and the nurse will record how much is in the container. The drainage will be bloody. This is normal and expected as a part of the recovery process.

IV and Catheters

An IV will continue to be used and provide you with fluids and medicine to prevent infection (antibiotics). It may also be used to give you pain medication.

Some patients have a tube in their bladder to drain their urine. Staff may call this a “Foley catheter” or a “Foley.” The nursing staff will measure the output from this tube/catheter. This tube/catheter is present because of the decreased sensation in your bladder caused by certain forms of pain control. It is removed as early as possible, usually on the day of surgery.


You will be able to go home when your pain is tolerable with pain pills, you are able to safely walk on your own or with appropriate equipment (i.e. walker), and your vital signs (heart rate, heart rhythm, blood pressure, and oxygen level) are normal.  Your discharge instructions will include your activity restrictions, what medications you will be starting, which ones to stop, and which ones to continue taking, and when and where your follow up visit with your surgeon will be.  While most patients after spine surgery return home, some may have home health visit them or go to a rehab facility depending on the evaluation of the physical and occupational therapist.