Many potential postoperative frustrations at home can be avoided with some foresight. Preparations that should be made ahead of time include deciding where the patient will sleep and how daily tasks will be performed during the recovery period.

Where Will the Patient Sleep?

Some scoliosis surgery patients get home and discover that their bed is too high or too low for someone recovering from a spinal fusion. The bed must be at a height where the patient can “log roll” into it, which involves sitting down and rolling into position while keeping the back straight and knees close together throughout the process. If the bed is not at a height conducive to the log-roll technique, arrangements need to be made before surgery to have a bed ready at home that will work.

Initially after surgery, it is good to use a ground floor bedroom (if available) and try to avoid stairs for the first month of recovery.


How Will Daily Tasks Be Performed?

For a patient recovering from scoliosis surgery, many routine tasks at home can become a challenge, especially the first couple weeks after surgery. Here are some tips to consider before surgery to help things run as smoothly as possible during the recovery:

  • Develop a nutrition plan. Healthy eating is important for helping the spine’s bones grow and fuse together after surgery. It is ideal if a friend or family member can help make meals the first few weeks at home. However, if help will be limited, it is advised to make some healthy meals ahead of time that can be frozen, such as casseroles, or buy nutritious frozen meals to have on hand for easy preparation during the first couple weeks at home.

    See Food for Thought: Diet and Nutrition for a Healthy Back

  • Create a plan for the bathroom. Scoliosis surgery patients will need a toilet seat riser during the early stages of recovering at home. Also, it could be uncomfortable to “wipe” at first, so it makes sense to have a special bottom wiper tool on hand for that dirty job. Baby wipes are also helpful.

    See Practical Advice for Recovering from Back Surgery

  • Think through all daily tasks and how they may need to be altered. Strenuous tasks will likely need to be avoided or given to others while the patient recovers. Even tasks like doing laundry or cooking will require help. Assistive devices might also be needed, such as a grabber for picking items off the floor or a special tool for putting on socks.

    See Preparation Before Back Surgery

  • Maintain a hygienic living space. A clean postoperative environment is important to avoid infection. For example, pets with dander and hair, such as cats and dogs, can cause an increase in infections. Contact with pets should be limited or avoided, especially in beds and couches, while the incision site is healing the first few weeks.

Arrangements should be made to have someone with the patient at all times for the first week or two home the hospital. In some cases, preparations will need to be made for a home health aide to help with certain tasks if the patient lives alone or has no one to assist with the recovery.

Dr. Steven Anagnost is an orthopedic surgeon and Founder of the Minimally Invasive Spine Institute in Tulsa, OK. He specializes in spine surgery and has been in practice for more than 20 years. He has taught minimally invasive spine surgery techniques to surgeons around the world and on staff for the Orthopaedic Surgery Department at Oklahoma State University.