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Spine Care

  • Patient Instructions

Spine Surgery Instructions


Thank you for choosing the CentraCare Neurosciences Brain & Spine Center for your upcoming surgery. The Center is a collaboration of St. Cloud Hospital, area clinics, surgeons, nurses, rehabilitation therapists, and numerous other health care staff who are all dedicated to providing the highest quality of care.

Your success also depends on you; we encourage you to be an active participant in your recovery process so that you can return to your independence sooner. Always speak up and ask questions about your care. 

We want you to be very satisfied with your surgery and hospital stay, and ask that you take some time before your surgery to review this material in order to prepare for surgery. It will also be helpful for the family member or friend who will help to care for you after surgery to review this information, using it as a guide to prepare for surgery and make notes of questions you have.

Please keep in mind this information is meant to be a general guideline for spine surgery. Your surgeon may have additional, more specific information for you. Write down any questions you have so you have them when speaking with nurses or your surgeon. Bring any unanswered questions with you on the day of surgery. 

This information will:

  • Prepare you for surgery
  • Prepare you for life after surgery
  • Provide resources to aid in your success after surgery

Please call 320-255-5933 with any questions you have regarding your upcoming surgery.

Six to eight weeks before surgery

Advanced Health Care Directives

Advanced Health Care Directive is a way you can share what your wishes are regarding your health care. There are different types of Advanced Directives so you may wish to consult your attorney concerning the legal implications of each. Options include Living Wills, appointment of a Health Care Agent, and Health Care Instructions. If you currently have an Advanced Health Care Directive or other similar document, make sure it is updated. Please bring a copy with you to
St. Cloud Hospital if it is not already on file; you will be asked about it when you arrive to the hospital.


During the winter months, keep immunizations up to date including influenza and pneumococcal vaccines. Do not get immunizations two weeks prior to your surgery. Report any flu or cold-like symptoms to your physician if they occur within two weeks prior to surgery. Bring a list of current immunizations and the date your received them to
St. Cloud Hospital with you on the day of surgery.

Stop smoking

Smoking slows down the speed of healing. The entire St. Cloud Hospital campus is Tobacco Free which means tobacco use of any kind is prohibited both indoors and outdoors.

Determine a plan to return to work

Consider the time you will be recovering at home. Please speak with your surgeon about his/her recommendation on returning to work after surgery. If you have forms from your employer that need to be signed by your surgeon, please mail, fax, or bring them to your surgeon’s office to be signed. Do not bring them to the hospital.

Two weeks before surgery

  • Arrange for someone to help you when you are discharged home.

  • Report any signs or symptoms of a cold or infection to your surgeon’s office.

  • Pay personal bills ahead of your hospitalization to make sure they are not late.

  • Arrange for a family or friend to drive you to and from the hospital, what type of vehicle you will easily be able to get in and out of after surgery.

  • You may want to schedule a haircut/styling prior to surgery, if that makes you feel more comfortable.

  • If a brace is ordered for you, practice putting the brace on and off. Walk with it on so you know how it feels. *Not everyone will have a brace ordered by their physician.

  • Practice using good body mechanics. Limit bending, lifting, or twisting at the waist.

  • A nurse from the Center for Surgical Care (CSC) will call you a few days before surgery to ask medical history questions of you.  This call will take about 20 minutes and will prepare us to have you and your family as our guests.

    • Be prepared with a list of your current medications and their dosages for this phone call (both prescriptions and over the counter medications).
    • The nurse will ask many questions, and will tell you which medications to take with a sip of water the morning of surgery.

    • If you do not receive this call by 4:30 p.m. the day before surgery (or on Friday if your surgery is scheduled for a Monday), please call us at 320-656-7182 or 800-835-6652. Contact Jacqueline Hoyhtya, RN at 320-255-5933 with any questions or concerns. She will be happy to assist you in preparations for your hospital stay and discharge.  

What is your discharge plan?

It is important to know that once you are medically ready, most insurance companies require that you discharge from the hospital. Your insurance company may refuse to pay for an extended stay, so it is necessary to have a discharge plan in place before you arrive at the hospital.

Going home with family/care giver:

  • Who is available during the morning or afternoon of your discharge day to give you a ride home from the hospital?

  • Who can look at your incision daily and change your dressing if needed?

  • Who can help with household duties (laundry, cooking and cleaning)? Remember: limit bending, lifting or twisting (BLTs) after your surgery.

  • Who can help you with your shower? 

  • Who can help you take care of your pets? 

  • Do you have a secured railing on all stairways?

Home with other assistance (if needed):

  • Outpatient Therapy – Which facility would you prefer your therapy scheduled at? 

  • Home with Home Health - Which agency(s) is available in your area?

Preparing your home

Preparing your home before surgery allows you to focus on your recovery when you return home. Simple changes can lower your risk of falling. In addition, arranging a network of friends, family and neighbors ahead of time can provide support when you need it most.

  • Arrange household items so they are within easy reach.

  • Move frequently used items to counter height in kitchen and bathroom.

  • Widen pathways to allow for any walker or cane you may be using.

  • Use a chair with arms to get up and sit down more easily. Low chairs and couches may be challenging to get in and out of.

  • Place a cushion or blanket on low chairs or couches so they are easier to get out of.

  • Keep a telephone nearby at all times.

  • Have a list nearby of relatives or friends that can help you if you need them.

  • Arrange kitchen cabinets and refrigerator so frequently used items are on an upper shelf.

  • Arrange bedroom drawers and closets so the frequently worn items are at a waist level.

  • Prepare and freeze meals to warm and eat after surgery.

Injury prevention

  • Remove all throw rugs, tack down loose carpet, and remove any tripping hazards.

  • Wear footwear with non-skid bottoms.

  • Do not use bath oils while in the shower.

  • Move telephone cords and electrical cords out of walkway.

  • Plug in night lights.

  • Keep stairs and hallways free from clutter.

  • Consider installing shower rails, slip-resistant rug by the shower/tub, or place a nonskid bathmat on shower/tub floor.  

The night before your surgery

A nurse will call you by 4:30 p.m. the day before surgery so you know when to arrive at the hospital for surgery. If your surgery is scheduled for Monday, they will call you Friday. If you do not receive this call, please call us at 320-656-7182. Do not eat or drink after midnight prior to your surgery. This includes, water, chewing gum or tobacco. You may be instructed by the nurse to take your medications at a different time.

What to pack for the hospital:

  • Any questions you wrote down

  • Comfortable clothes to wear home (loose shirt, pants or shorts)

  • Socks and undergarments

  • Non-skid shoes

  • Eye glasses and case, or contact lenses, case and contact solution

  • Hearing aids with case and extra batteries

  • Personal toiletries

  • Pacemaker card and information (if applicable)

  • CPAP or BiPAP (if you use one at home)

  • List of medications you are currently taking, including herbals and over-the-counter medications, vitamins, including the dose and time you take them. Do not bring your actual medications.

  • Copy of your current immunization record

  • Back brace (only if one is ordered by your surgeon before surgery)

  • Confidence in yourself!

Leave at home:

  • Any medications (bring only a list of what you take)

  • Jewelry

  • Money, other than what you may need for prescription medication co-payments or deductibles if you have them filled at St. Cloud Hospital Pharmacy or on your drive home.

  • Other valuables

  • Please remove colored fingernail polish

  • If you have an assistive device (such as a cane or walker), have it available for transport from the hospital. You will use our devices while you are in the hospital.

Arriving at St. Cloud Hospital

Center for Surgical Care (CSC)

The CSC is an area in the hospital that prepares you for your surgery, located on the south end of St. Cloud Hospital on Floor A. Park on Level 1 or 2 of the South Ramp. Take the South Ramp Elevator to Floor A. Upon arrival, locate the computer kiosk in CSC and enter your name. A registration specialist will escort you and one family member to a room. For your privacy we will complete registration at the bedside.  Here, you will work with a Registered Nurse (RN) and Patient Care Assistant (PCA).

After getting checked in, the staff will:

  • Ask you to change into a patient hospital gown

  • Ask you to remove any dentures, hearing aids, contact lenses, jewelry, rings, piercings, or underwear prior to surgery

  • Discuss your medical history including any implanted devices you may have such as a defibrillator and any allergies you have

  • Double check your surgical consent form, place a name band on your wrist

  • Check your vital signs including height and weight

  • Place an intravenous (IV) line so you can get medications and fluids

  • Teach you to use an incentive spirometer to assist you in deep breathing

  • Discuss any questions or concerns you may have. Please speak up!

  • Place special white stockings placed on your legs to decrease swelling.

  • Mark the correct surgical site with initials by the surgeon or assistant.

  • An anesthesiologist will meet with you prior to going to the operating room. You will have the opportunity to ask questions and to discuss the type of anesthesia being used.

When the operating room is ready, you will be transported to another waiting area called pre-op holding. At this time, your family and/or friends will move to a waiting lounge. They will be updated throughout the surgery.

Patient identification:

You will constantly be asked your name and date of birth throughout your hospital stay. We do this to make certain that our information matches yours. Be prepared for hospital staff in many areas to ask you some of the same questions; we are double checking the information we have for you to ensure safety and quality.

Pain rating scale

Pain scale


Pain is a natural response to illness, injury and surgery. Pain after surgery can be successfully managed. Your doctors and nurses want and need to know when your pain is not under control. We will help you manage your pain. Ask for pain medicine when you begin to feel discomfort; pain medication is more effective if taken before pain is severe.

It is not realistic to set a comfort goal of zero (no pain) after surgery, because there is some discomfort even after minor procedures. Many patients do not anticipate the pain that commonly follows spine surgery and can be surprised and disheartened.

It is important to know:

  • You will be asked to use a 0 to 10 pain scale. Zero is no pain, 10 represents the “worst pain you can imagine”.

  • Our goal is to reduce your pain and make it manageable so you can work with nursing staff and therapy to become as independent as possible.

  • Be specific when describing the pain you feel (throbbing, aching, shooting, cramping).

  • Medications will be used to help manage pain, but may not eliminate it.

  • You may not be completely pain-free during the surgery recovery period, but discomfort will decrease with time.

  • Movement such as walking will be encouraged by your care team because it can help to decrease pain and stiffness.


Thank you for choosing St. Cloud Hospital – it is our privilege serving you. Please call 320-255-5933 with any questions about your upcoming hospital stay. We are more than happy to speak with you.

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