Most people who have cervical artificial disc replacement surgery can go home on the same day or the next day.

During the short hospital stay after surgery, hospital staff checks for potential complications and gives assistance with pain management and a return to walking and eating. After a few hours, an assessment is typically made about whether a return to home is advised or if a longer hospital stay is needed.

See Potential Complications and Risks of Cervical Disc Replacement Surgery

Immediately After Cervical Artificial Disc Replacement Surgery

After waking up from the anesthesia after the surgery, the patient is typically groggy due to the medications. A medical professional may ask some questions, such as if the arms and legs can move. These questions are to check that nerves were not injured during the procedure.

See Surgical Procedure for Cervical Disc Replacement

At this stage, intravenous (IV) medications may still be necessary for pain management. Some patients report that nerve pain in the arm is completely gone upon waking up from surgery, whereas others report that pain feels worse before starting to get better. How the nerve heals can vary from person to person, and sometimes a healing nerve feels more painful for a few days to a couple weeks. Most patients have at least some discomfort in the front of the neck where the incision was made.

It may take a few hours before an appetite returns, especially if the throat is sore or the anesthesia has caused nausea.


Walking After Cervical Artificial Disc Replacement Surgery

A few hours after surgery, hospital staff is likely to help the person out of bed to try walking. Initially, walking will be done on a flat floor before trying to walk up and down stairs. Most patients can walk well at this stage. Patients who struggle at this point with walking or dizziness will need more rest or further evaluation before trying to walk again.

During waking hours, walking is recommended every 2 to 3 hours to help ease the recovery process. Walking aids in blood circulation and reduces the risks for complications such as blood clots or constipation. To make walking in the hospital easier, consider bringing safe slip-on shoes.


Leaving the Hospital After Surgery

A person recovering from cervical artificial disc replacement surgery is typically allowed to leave the hospital when he or she can:

  • Eat solid food and have a bowel movement. If it is not possible to swallow or have a bowel movement, a longer hospital stay may be necessary for further evaluation.
  • Take oral pain medication Pain levels must be reduced enough to be managed with oral medications rather than an IV.
  • Perform routine daily tasks. Getting in and out of bed alone, as well as walking up and down steps, may be tested before being released from the hospital.

While most people go home the same day, it may be necessary to stay a day or longer. If a longer recovery is needed, a discharge to a rehabilitation facility may be recommended before being cleared to return home.

Dr. Jay Jagannathan is a neurosurgeon specializing in spine surgery, and he is the Founder and President of a Michigan-based multidisciplinary practice offering neurosurgery, neurology, and pain management services.