What is the Recovery Like After Spinal Decompression Surgery?
Patients with cervical spondylotic myelopathy who undergo a laminectomy with posterior fusion can expect a recovery that includes surgical site care, pain management and a gradual return to activity based on Dr. Braxton’s postoperative protocol. The complexity of the surgery will dictate the recovery process. The incision should be monitored for any changes in swelling, redness, temperature or reopening. Showering should be postponed for a couple of days and the incision should be kept dry for 5 – 7 days. The incision should be kept covered in plastic wrap when showering again. Patients may also need to take some time off work.
Time spent sitting should be minimized to 20-30 minutes at a time. Sleeping in any pain free position is allowed and the use of a supportive brace is recommended on a limited basis. It is important to avoid bending, twisting and lifting. A light walking program within the first week can gradually increase. It is recommended that the use of stairs should be limited to once a day for the first two weeks. Any strenuous activity must be delayed until recovery is established.
Physical therapy may be helpful to promote safe movement with daily activities such as getting in and out of bed, chairs, and getting dressed. Driving should be postponed for the first two weeks and then done gradually. Recovery from spinal decompression surgery using laminectomy and posterior fusion may require a longer recovery than other treatments and full bone healing is typically within 4 to 12 months.
Patients who undergo a laminoplasty surgery can expect a similar recovery. A neck collar may be used for several weeks. Physical therapy may be prescribed after the initial recovery period. Most patients report a significant increase in normal nerve function and a decrease in symptoms. This improvement continues from 6 – 18 months as the spine heals. Complete resolution of the condition of cervical spondylotic myelopathy is a common result.