One to Four Weeks After Spine Fusion Surgery

One of the risks of any surgery is infection. This occurs about 1% of the time. Some people, (e.g., diabetics), are more prone to infections.

Wound infections usually present at about 10 days after surgery. Some symptoms to look for include:

  • Fever (101 degrees or higher)
  • Expanding redness at the incision site
  • Increasing pain
  • Change in the amount, appearance or odor of drainage

If these signs develop it is important to contact your surgeon immediately.

If an infection does develop, it is treated with a long course (usually 4-6 weeks) of intravenous antibiotics. Further surgery may or may not be needed. If the infection becomes chronic, the metal hardware inserted during the surgery may need to be removed.

If a narcotic pain medication was prescribed, the patient should wean him or herself from the medication over a few weeks. The surgeon should provide instructions and guidance to help accomplish this. Most often, there is no need for narcotics after about a month.

Tylenol is a relatively safe and effective pain medication and can be used when weaning off narcotic analgesics. Many surgeons recommend that patients avoid use of aspirin products and NSAIDs for at least 3 months after lumbar fusion. These products tend to interfere with growth and development of new bone cells (the fusion mass). However, in some situations, use of these products cannot be avoided because they are necessary for treatment of other health conditions. It is important to discuss all medications with your surgeon and your primary care provider.