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Questions to ask your doctor about spinal surgery

You are going to have surgery on your spine. The main types of spinal surgery include spinal fusion, diskectomy, laminectomy, and foraminotomy.

Below are questions you may want to ask your doctor to help you prepare for spinal surgery.


How do I know if spine surgery will help me?

  • Why is this type of surgery recommended?
  • Are there different methods for doing this surgery?
  • How will this surgery help my spinal condition?
  • Is there any harm in waiting?
  • Am I too young or too old for spinal surgery?
  • What else can be done to relieve my symptoms besides surgery?
  • Will my condition become worse if I do not have the surgery?
  • What are the risks of the operation?

How much will spine surgery cost?

  • How do I find out if my insurance will pay for spine surgery?
  • Does insurance cover all of the costs or just some of them?
  • Does it make a difference which hospital I go to? Do I have a choice of where to have surgery?

Is there anything that I can do before the surgery so it will be more successful for me?

  • Are there exercises I should do to make my muscles stronger?
  • Do I need to lose weight before surgery?
  • Where can I get help quitting cigarettes or not drinking alcohol, if I need to?

How can I get my home ready before I go to the hospital?

  • How much help will I need when I come home? Will I be able to get out of bed?
  • How can I make my home safer for me?
  • How can I make my home so it is easier to get around and do things?
  • How can I make it easier for myself in the bathroom and shower?
  • What type of supplies will I need when I get home?

What are the risks or complications of the spine surgery?

  • What can I do before surgery to make the risks lower?
  • Do I need to stop taking any medicines before my surgery?
  • Will I need a blood transfusion during or after the surgery? Are there ways of saving my own blood before the surgery so it can be used during the surgery?
  • What is the risk of infection from surgery?

What should I do the night before my surgery?

  • When do I need to stop eating or drinking?
  • Do I need to use a special soap when I bathe or shower?
  • What medicines should I take the day of surgery?
  • What should I bring with me to the hospital?

What will the surgery be like?

  • What steps will be involved in this surgery?
  • How long will the surgery last?
  • What type of anesthesia will be used? Are there choices to consider?
  • Will I have a tube connected to my bladder? If yes, how long does it stay in?

What will my stay in the hospital be like?

  • Will I be in a lot of pain after surgery? What will be done to relieve the pain?
  • How soon will I be getting up and moving around?
  • How long will I stay in the hospital?
  • Will I be able to go home after being in the hospital, or will I need to go to a rehabilitation facility to recover more?

How long will it take to recover from spine surgery?

  • How should I manage the side effects such as swelling, soreness, and pain after the surgery?
  • How will I care for the wound and sutures at home?
  • Are there any restrictions post-surgery?
  • Do I need to wear any kind of brace after spine surgery?
  • How long will it take for my back to heal after the surgery?
  • How will spine surgery affect my work and routine activities?
  • How long will I need to be off work after the surgery?
  • When will I be able to resume my routine activities on my own?
  • When can I resume my medicines? How long should I not take anti-inflammatory medications?

How will I gain my strength back after the spine surgery?

  • Do I need to proceed with a rehabilitation program or physical therapy after the surgery? How long will the program last?
  • What type of exercises will be included in this program?
  • Will I be able to perform any exercises on my own after the surgery?

Alternative Names

What to ask your doctor about spinal surgery - before; Before spinal surgery - doctor questions; Before spinal surgery - what to ask your doctor; Questions to ask your doctor about back surgery


Li Y, Ling MZ, Wang MY. Perioperative management protocols: Enhanced recovery after surgery. In: Steinmetz MP, Berven SH, Benzel EC, eds. Benzel's Spine Surgery. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2022:chap 79.

Stefanelli AJ, Sabourin V, Hines K, Singh H,  Harrop JS. Fundamentals of spine surgery. In: Steinmetz MP, Berven SH, Benzel EC, eds. Benzel's Spine Surgery. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2022:chap 78.

Review Date 12/9/2021

Updated by: C. Benjamin Ma, MD, Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, San Francisco, CA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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