How to Prepare for Spinal Surgery


Having to undergo spine surgery can be a daunting experience to prepare for mentally and physically. Fortunately there are steps you can take to make the experience more comfortable and manageable. Reducing stress by being prepared in the time leading up to surgery can help you have the optimal experience and help you focus on recovery during the post-operative experience. You can start by brushing up on the basics, learning about the different types of spine surgery getting answers to the most common questions about spine surgery. Get more pre-surgery tips and information below.

Lab Work and Testing

If you’re going to undergo spinal surgery, pre-operative lab work will most likely be required. In addition, you will likely be required to undergo an electrocardiogram (EKG), which will test the electrical function of your heart and ensure that surgery is safe.

You may also need medical clearances from your primary care physician and other specialists before you can proceed with surgery. Find our what paperwork you need to have your providers fill out to document testing and clearances for your spinal surgeon. Where you can complete testing — whether it be your primary care physician’s office or an HMO facility — may be determined by your insurance carrier.

Medical Products and Equipment

You may need some specialty products and equipment after your surgery. It’s better to buy these things in advance. Your medical provider may offer these items in-house or you can shop at a medical equipment store. Consider making these purchases before your spinal surgery:

• Thigh-high thrombo-embolic deterrent (TED) hose, also known as compression stockings

• Spine and hip kit, which includes a bath sponge, dressing stick, shoe horn, reacher, sock assist and black and white shoe laces

• Shower chair

• Walker with wheels

• Raised toilet seat


Talk to your surgeon about what medications you take, and how you may need to alter your regimen in advance of your surgery. From an orthopedic perspective, they may instruct you to stop taking some medications 14 days prior to the procedure, including:

  • Coumadin
  • Plavix
  • Eliquis
  • Xeralto
  • Pradaxa
  • Ibuprophen/Motrin
  • Aleve
  • Advil
  • Tylenol for Arthritis
  • Aspirin products
  • Fish Oil/Omega3
  • Multivitamins
  • Vitamin E
  • Vitamin D

If you’re diabetic, your surgeon may ask you to stop taking the following medications 12 hours before surgery:

  • Oral Glucophage
  • Glucovance
  • Metaglip
  • Avandamet
  • Actoplus Met
  • Janumet
  • Prandimet
  • Glumetza
  • Fortamet
  • Riomet
  • Metformin

If you’re taking any medications prescribed by your doctor, including blood thinning medications, do not stop taking them without your doctor’s okay.


During two weeks prior to spinal surgery, your provider will likely have you showering with an antiseptic soap — typically Hibiclens or an equivalent. You can purchase this soap over the counter at most pharmacies, or through your provider.

Only apply the antiseptic soap from your neck to your toes. Avoid applying the soap to your face or genitals, as it may be irritating. Use regular soap for those areas. Your skin may feel stick or tacky while using this soap. Don’t worry, this is normal!

The Night Before

Expect a call from the hospital the evening before your procedure is scheduled. This call should go over:

  • Your medications
  • What to bring to your appointment
  • When to arrive (typically two hours before your procedure)
  • Where to park
  • How to check in

Remember not to eat, drink, chew gum or suck on hard candy after midnight on the day of your surgery.

The Big Day

Pack your bag the night before your surgery to avoid stress on your big day. Items to bring include:

  • Discs of recent spinal MRIs or CT scans
  • Back brace, if you’ve been prescribed one
  • TED hose in their original package
  • Spine kit or any other equipment issued by your surgical team
  • List of all prescribed and over-the-counter medications
  • Photo ID such as a driver’s license
  • Insurance card
  • Primary care information
  • Living will or power of attorney (POA) information
  • Dentures and glasses, if needed
  • Personal toiletries

Dress comfortably in loose fitting clothing. Bring walking shoes or supportive gym shoes. Do not wear flip flops.

Other Resources

Your provider may encourage you to attend a class that helps prepare patients for spinal surgery. These sessions will explain more about what to expect before, during and after your procedure, and are definitely worth attending.

Part of your preparation should be learning about your right to appoint a power of attorney to make health care decisions in instances where you’re unable to do so. Different states have different requirements for documents that grant medical POA status. You may want to seek legal assistance before your surgery.

If you have any questions about how to prepare, or questions about innovations in spine surgery you may have heard about, don’t hesitate to ask your health care provider. Even if you haven’t been through the process before, they have and they can put your questions to rest and help you focus on a speedy and successful recovery.