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Post-Op Must Haves

saltzworksssaltzworks Posts: 1,031
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:22 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
Many times member post a topic asking what they might need after they have had surgery.This is a great list that saltzworks (Amy) put together to address that question. her list goes from food items to lip balm to extra pillows. She has also included a list of items a patient might want to take care of prior to surgery such as things like making sure you have a hair cut before surgery.

Amy, thank you for your help............Paul


Handy List for Surgery

Food Items
• Soft foods including: Yogurt, frozen yogurt, ice cream, popsicles, jello cups, pre-made puddings & tapioca, protein bars, cereal, microwave oatmeal, bananas, chicken stock, microwave dinners, frozen pasta entrees, pre-made mashed potatoes, cookies, chocolate, lettuce, salad dressing, cheese, lunch meat, hot dogs, bread, bakery items.
o Check for other soft foods that are healthier than this list ☺o People had a difficult time digesting food. Reports include nausea, increased thirst and fatigue so quick meals were essential.
• Drinks – Plenty of bottled water bedside, Gatorade, Powerade, coke, ginger ale, other soft drinks, yogurt drinks, Ensure or Boost protein drinks, milk, chocolate milk, orange juice, other juices, tea, coffee with cream/sugar/sweetener, Black tea with honey/lemon that soothes the stomach.
• Frozen fruit for blending smoothies in a Magic Bullet or blender
• Protein Powder [will assist with bone fusion, particularly if you cannot chew much]
• Bag of ice – small cubes
• Ice chips to help dry or sore throat
• Flexible and long straws
• Paper plates and plastic cups
• Candy, sugarless gum
• Mints
• Vitamins
• Magic Bullet (or similar blender) for individual servings o It is great for individual blending/smoothies, etc. It is carried in most dept stores, kitchen stores, etc. It is great at blending up ice and much more convenient to have the individual serving size than the full size blender. Magic Bullet also has a website.
Bathroom Items
• Shower stool to Chair to sit in shower with soap/shampoo/shower gel on another chair for easy reach
• Non-slip mat for shower
• Hand shower
• Long-handled Back scrubber
• Nylon bath poof instead of wash cloth; easier to hold
• Exfoliating skin towel. [Body Shop has these and they are great for rubbing off the dead skin and helping you feel fresh, especially if stuck in bed]
• Toilet riser with or without side handles - $15-$25
• Bedpan if necessary
• Walker and/or cane per doctor

Personal Items
• Deodorant body wipes / wet wipes for freshening up (Drug Store has near the Depends. They are a large size.)
• Pre-moistened facial cleansing cloths
• Dry shampoo $5 from specialty beauty store
• Powder – Shower to Shower or other
• Face cream (I would suggest small sizes)
• Hand cream
• Body lotion for itchy skin
• Lip balm, Chapstick
• Mouthwash
• Throat lozenges / Chloraseptic Spray
• Kleenex
• Wound dressings per doctor
• Thermometer to check temp after surgery
• Stool softener / Suppositories for constipation (Some found they couldn’t keep the pills down and/or they got stomach cramps from the pills)
• Prune Juice taken with a dose of Milk of Magnesia for dire cases of constipation - it takes about 2 hours, then you are good to go (pun intended).

Handy Items
•Grabber/picker – preferably 36” long. Perhaps one in bedroom and one in living room. $10-$25
• Long handled shoe horn. $5
• Grabber-like thing to pull on socks with, or think about wearing flip flops or open-backed shoes.
• Pill Organizer or notepad to keep track of what you need to take when and to make notations of when you take your meds.
• Bedtray
• Bell, cell phone or walkie talkies to contact caregivers
• Microwaveable hot packs –great for aching shoulders, etc.
• Satin sheets for easy sliding in and of bed. Or satin PJ's.
• "Turning sheet" strip of heavy fabric that you put under you so that you can have a signficant other pull to turn you over as needed, particularly good for those first few days.
• Cold packs in freezer prior to surgery
• Phone near the bed. Get a wireless or wireless adapter from Radio Shack o Cellphone and charger o Blackberry, Treo and chargers
• IPod, headphones, charger o Update your playlists
• Books, magazines, audio books, crosswords, Sudoku o Booklight
• Extra batteries for remotes
• Remote controls for TV, DVD, etc.
• Plastic containers to hold and organize items you will use while confined to bed. Also to use after mouthwash or for small trash. o Put all the reading materials, crosswords, pencils, etc. in one. Put personal cleansing items in another.
• Small, lightweight pitcher for water next to bed
• Paper towels near bed
• Small wash basin near bed
• Small bucket for nausea next to bed
• Small garbage bags nearby
• Towel that lies flat on the bed beside you. Put items you may use on top then just pull the towel toward you to retrieve items you can’t reach.
• Extra pillows to help with comfortable positions
• Additional sheets, blankets, pillows near recliner, sofa, chair in living room
• Wheelchair, if necessary
• Recliner, if possible. Some find recliners work, others don't - they can be hard to get out of.
• Think about placing every day items at waist height even if it means storing on counters.
• Pedometer for post-op walking program

• Slip on shoes o Croc shoes with the open back. They are ugly but they are easy to get on, provide great traction, comfortable to wear and were recommended by the hospital.
• Slippers - not too loose with good soles
• Soft socks – NAP socks from Brookstone are awesome & keep your feet warm at night. $20/3 pairs
• Bathrobe
• Pull on pants – make them a size larger so they don’t bother your incision(s); check elastic so it’s not too tight.
• Front buttoned shirts or zipper tops for trips to PT and doctor
• Jogging suits
• Sweat pants
• Yoga pants
• Front button pajamas – numerous sets
• Camisoles or tee shirts to wear under brace, preferably cotton so it breathes. Ladies -try the ones with the bra built in.

Comfort Items
• Lots of pillows, body, small, wedge, cervical, etc.
• 3" memory foam mattress topper pad $100 approx.
• Pressure mattress or pads
• Have plenty of sheets, pillowcases, blankets, washcloths and towels ready for use. o Have sheets, blankets, pillows near a favorite recliner or sofa
• If you are planning on much reading or computer (laptop) work post-op, consider a stand that adjusts in position and height like a hospital bed tray –Brookstone. $150; There are less expensive ones around $60-70. Make sure they fit under your favorite chair.
• Linen spray to freshen sheets and pillow cases. Use lavender scent to relax and help with sleep.

To Do Prior To Surgery
• Shave, wax, pedicure, manicure, etc. right before surgery. If you have fake nails, think about removing since they may fall off due to anesthesia
• Hair cut
• Dentist
• Update prescription glasses, both reading and regular if you wear contacts since you won’t be wearing contacts much in the hospital or after surgery
• Give all doctor names and numbers to caregiver(s) as well as next to your bed
• Put together phone numbers of all concerned family members and friends on one sheet
• Check with your doctor for handicap sticker
• All grooming/personal supplies waist high to avoid reaching/bending
• Organize essential items at home to be within reach, e.g. telephone, shoes, etc.
• Arrange for care - someone to be with you for most of the first week post-discharge
• Make sure you give your surgeon a list of your regular medications including the dosage amount.
• Give blood prior to surgery and/or family members
• Checks made out for bills, stamped envelopes ready or online payments done in advance
• Have some cash handy for family members to run errands.
• Pet care arranged
• Car keys and house keys given to appropriate caregivers

Boredom Relievers
• Laptop
• Magazines, books
• Audio books
• Crosswords
• Sudoku
• IPod (updated with playlists for recovery)
• Nintendo
• DVDs o Order prior to surgery if belong to Netflix or other service

Take to Hospital
(check with hospital in case you receive items during stay)
• Button up pajamas
• Back Scratcher, cheap bamboo - invaluable!
• Bathrobe to cover up if use a Johnny
• Hairbrush/Comb
• Toothbrush and toothpaste
• Mouthwash
• Facial wipes
• Body wipes
• Hand Cream
• Facial Cream
• Lip Balm
• Lavender linen spray or Febreze
• For long hair, elastic bands to tie back
• Loose clothing to come home in o Underwear o Front button top o Socks o Comfortable, safe shoes
• Magazine, crosswords, notepad, pencil
• Glasses
• Laptop, if you want - a lot of hospitals have wireless access in the rooms

On the day you come home:

Make sure you put a plastic trash bag on the car seat for easy sliding in and out of the vehicle. Pillows and a careful, slow driver are also great suggestions!

This list was originally compiled by Jujybean. Kinpain sent it to me when I was asking prior to my surgery. Since then I have read suggestions and edited the list accordingly - this list is truly a product of everyone here - THANKS!

p.s. Obviously, there are so many items here that if you purchased everything, you would need a separate room to put things in, however, I included many items so people can make their own choices. If you have any other suggestions, please let me know. Thanks in advance and hope this list makes life a little easier for you prior to surgery. Best of luck.



  • What a great list you have made, It has been so helpful, some of these things you just dont think of until you really need them.... thanks so much for posting this
  • Cyndi - thanks for the compliment;

    It IS a great list!!!

    ...but, that said, I cannot take full credit - I am only a person that happened to have a saved copy of the list (and then added to it from the thread we had going) - it is the work of countless spiney members here, truly an accumulated effort that has come from many experiences.

    I have to say that this list really saved me when I got it - I was actually grateful my surgery got delayed, it gave me a chance to ask for and get the list :)
  • I also wanted to say Thank you for such a wonderful and helpful list. I have already looked at it a couple of times and I will be browsing it again before the weekend is over as I am due to have surgery on Monday. I started making my lists this morning, and will be adding more to it, and then making the shopping trip to get the things I don't have at home. :)
  • Gosh , My first day on the forum and I am finding so much info and support from all. Thanks for this great list . I will use it for my upcoming Fusion in Oct.Don't know how long of a Hosp. stay it will be . Only my second time and the first was one nite.
    Thanks to all who compiled this wonderful list.

    Lumbar stenosis, Herniated disc
    Lumnar laminectony/ discectomy 8/29/07
    L5-S1 Fusion/pedicle screws sched. 10/27/08

    RB in Indiana
  • Hiya salt wow.what a list.impressive, listen salt i need to get chatting to u, i hink i am having bmp issues, its 3pm daytime now here in ireland...when would be the best time to chat? oh its sunday today!!! thanks
  • Thank you for the list, it's very thorough! I will order the crocs and get my supplies ready.
  • What are your thoughts on having my husband spend the first week post-op home from work to care for me? Do you think it is an appropriate time frame? We built a home for my mother right next to us so we could take care of her...Ha Ha. She will also be able to help me but she is a small person and I do not know if she would be able to help me with those trips to the restroom.
  • Pika,

    I think it is an excellent idea. I know several people who live alone and they had to rely on occasional visits by friends and family after their surgery. I am fortunate to have a husband who is retired, so he was with me, as matter of fact, he did not leave me alone at all during the first two weeks. So if your husband can manage it, by all means let him stay home with you for a week, and hopefully pamper you. Believe me, you will appreciate it.

    Good luck,

  • Like Kin, either my husband or a friend was with me all the time my first 2 weeks home and I was really glad - especially the first week! After the first week I was more mobile and could get to/from the bathroom and kitchen with my walker. But having someone to bring you the things you need/want is good because I thought getting up and down was more difficult than the actual walking. Enjoy all the help you can get!

  • ... is essential. You will definitely welcome all the assistance you can get. In my case, TLIF 9/25/07, my mother-in-law came for a 3 wk visit and she was a god-send! Especially the first week when I was learning how to move around on my own. She was constantly there whether I needed her or not! LOL We never saw eye to eye on many subjects ~X( but during the 30+ years of being married to her eldest we "tolerated" each other. Now we're best of friends. (Maybe she just needed another BIG BABY. to care for??)

    She's coming in again for my 360 on 11/4. I'm definitely looking forward to her visit this time. =D>
  • I tried to be as prepared for this as possible....bought the Ensure shakes, lots of pudding and soft foods....and all I can really have is popsicles. Even water is going down hard. I felt like I was drowning a few times. The nurse called me this morning to find out how I was doing and she said...to stick with the popsicles for a few days because the cold will sooth the throat. Man am I having a rough time with this. But even with all the small complications....I feel much better than I did before the surgery.
  • What a great list, I thought I had everything I needed but after reading the list there was few things I forgot or just didn't think about.
    I decided to rent me a hospital bed (semi electric) to see if it would help me sleep and relieve some of my pain. I am so glad because it is helping. I got it through my local drug store for $150.00 per month at no extra cost for delivery and setting it up. I did go buy me a memory foam topper to help. I set it up in my family room where the big TV is and closer to the kitchen! ;) My surgery is next Wendesday, ALIF L5-S1
  • By far the most useful thing I purchased prior to my lumbar fusion/decompression is the "grabber." I'm 2 weeks post op and I don't know what I would have done without it. I even use it to get clothes out of the dryer and feed my dogs! The one I have is called EZ Grabber and is made by Carex. Should be able to google it. Also, I thing our local Eckerds (I think it has a new name) has them.
  • I think the above list is great--wish i had found it before surgery-HA!

    I live in NH in the mountains and we have now had snow for a couple weeks. I bought a pair of ice grabbers to put on my boots. They have little titanium (i think) picks which can be replaced for 8 a set. I have had these for several years and still have not had to replace original ones. I also bought a ice prong for my cane that flips up out of way when not in use ($6.95). Very helpful!

    the only other thing I think I would recommend is some kind of instrument to use in the bathroom to wipe oneself. I know several other people who said they struggled with this. They make special care tongs but the are pricey. I saw something at Walmart in the medical area which could work. I used a pair of kitchen tongs that had metal rounded ends, easy to hold paper and to sanitize.

    Thanks to everyone for their good ideas.


    Herniated disc at work L5- S-1, failed microdiscectomy 2003
    9/2008 micro PLIF 2 levels w/ instrumentation and BMP
  • My surgery for aftificial disk replacment is in 3 weeks.How long before I can drive?
  • Just a couple additions for the Post-Op must haves:

    1. Access to this forum. It's the best support available and it's 24/7 and free! (Be sure to hang around following your surgery to provide support to other members and newbies.)
    2. A positive attitude (although a few pity parties are allowed and understood and as long as the party doesn't last too long). ;)
  • and I have mine printed out and have somethings already.
    As for having your husband stay with you I think that is the best thing if you do not have anyone to help you after you come home. I will have my husband and my mom will also stop in to help and visit to make sure I am doing okay. Now just the wait.
  • It's so important to healing bones. I was craving orange juice and milk (not together) after my surgery. Usually I don't drink either. When I realized both were great sources of vit D I realized my must be craving it with the fusion.

    If you can get just 10 minutes a day in the sun your own body will produce vit D. If no sun then load your body up with vit D foods.

    FYI be very careful taking vit D in a supplement form because you can get to much of it.

  • dilaurodilauro ConnecticutPosts: 9,715

    Thanks to list that Amy (saltzworks)put togetehr, this information is now available for everyone via FAQ
    Ron DiLauro Spine-Health System Administrator
    I am not a medical professional. I comment on personal experiences
    You can email me at: rdilauro@veritashealth.com
  • I have my list ready and surgery is 4 days away. Boy am I nervous.
  • My sister who lived just next door to me stayed with me for the first two weeks just in case and that helped alot. I was afraid of falling, not eating enough, etc etc.

    Evelyn :H
    Had PLIF in 2008 and a Laminectomy. One level fusion, L4-L5.
  • I am new to this site and I am having my 3rd and hopefully final back surgery on March 2, 2009 L5-S1 fusion I think this list is very beneficial to anyone having back surgery and I know that I will be using alot of the items listed. Thanks again.
  • Hi Kin,

    I noticed that you have had an L3-S1 fusion with instrumentation. It that a four level fusion? I am scheduled to have a four level PLIF in a couple of weeks with Pedicle screws. How have you done since the surgery? How long after surgery were you able to resume fairly normal activity? What is your pain level like now and how long after surgery did it take to get to that level? Thanks for any input you can give me!

    Panama City Beach, FL
  • Hi, I'm very new here. Just got finished reading your list of things to get pre-opt. I haven't had any back surgery yet. I'm praying I can hold out till I die.

    I, too, have a body that is very sensitive to meds. I can no longer tolerate tylenol (very upset stomach) or ibuprofens (terribly nauseous).

    Right now am suffering daily with sciatica. got an MRI but haven't yet gone back to the neuro surgeon for his opinion. Been to physcial therapy but didn't do well cause I wasn't able to tolerate the pain afterwards...couldn't take anti inflammatories to relieve the pain/swelling.

    May I ask what did you take after your operation...after you got home?? Oh, forgot to mention, can't take steriods...alergic.

  • first of all... thanks to all of you who have posted on this site. the info you have shared has helped me sooooo much. i'd like to return the favor with a few small things that i have discovered.

    1. cutting off the toe end of a sock and putting it over the velcro portion of your soft neck brace will stop the velcro from pulling on your long hair.

    2. when trying to wean off the soft collar, wear it just a little looser every day. i'm doing this by pinning a tiny safety pin on the collar where the strap ends and moving it a little bit each morning.

    3. when beginning to drive, do it after dark the 1st few times. turning my head to check for oncoming traffic at intersections is often painful. you don't have to rotate your head as far to see a car with headlights on.
  • One thing to add is to put away your pride and ask friends for meals.

    It was super nice to have people drop off food everyday for me and more importantly for my caretaker - my husband Matt!

    Let them know you may not be able to greet them and spend time until the 2nd week but food would be welcomed.

    By the 2nd week I had to tell friends and church members to stop because our fridge was packed and our freezer too! We had great meals and I now will be quick to return the favor.

    Good luck!

    PS - The satin sheets and/or PJs... very important!!
    ** AND baby monitor


    Post Microdiscectomy patient (Jan 26, 2009) and doing great!
  • Thank-you for all the helpful advice. Here in N.Z. have been fighting to get surgery approval for work accident treatment for lower back injury and pain.
    Will get decision tomorrow if approved or looking at personally paying for surgery.
    Surgery proposed is-L4/S1 fusion,excision of right transverse process of L5 on the right with a TLIF and cage at L4/5. A posterolateral fusion with instrumentation was also recommended. I must confess it confuses and scares me the terminology, the comments posted have helped me so much to be prepared for surgery. Have been so focussed on dealing with the pain and trying other treatments to regain my mobility.The list of must-haves after surgery was a bit of a surprise to me, in my ignorance I thought my life would just return to "normal"-thank-you for opening my eyes to reality. Now I can prepare a plan which will ensure a more positive outcome for both my family and myself.

  • I always meant to add this, but always forget. When I went to rehab after my fusion, the OT told me to use a terry cloth robe right after my shower, and by the time I dry off parts I can reach, the rest of me will be dry also. Wonderful advise, after 10 months I still use it, although now I am able to do anything. I thought I pass it on.

  • Thank you for compiling the list. I am going have husband buy many of the food items listed, so I can take care of myself when he returns to work. Fantastic!!!
  • Thank you to those who wrote this list. I am having surgery (PLIF or TLIF or both) April 16th and this list is a Godsend!!

    One question...(I know, right? How can I have questions over something so simple?? LOL).

    I know everyone's different, but just so I get an idea...I'm supposed to be in the hospital for 5 days. Will I still need the soft foods when I get home or should I be OK by then? (Not OK as in running around, I mean OK as in able to eat solid foods). :)

    Thanks again!

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