Originally Answered: Back surgery? I could REALLY use some help?
I've posted the following a few times for other people with questions. I hope I'll answer the things that have you concerned.
Let me talk about the hospital stay.
You'll have meds to help with the pain. You'll start out with stronger meds and then wean yourself from them over time. So, yes, it does hurt, but you shouldn't be left hurting.
The size of your scar depends on how many vertebrae need fusing and the technique used to do the fusion. A four-level fusion will have a smaller scar than a 12-level fusion. Some surgeries (probably not yours) need both anterior and posterior (A/P, or front and back). Lastly, some people may be candidates for "minimally invasive" techniques. So, this is a hard question to answer without knowing more about your situation.
Your hospital stay will probably be between four and seven days. Teens typically heal quicker than adults and so their hospital stay is less.
As for what they do, each case is different. Here's one possible scenerio. Its incomplete as I'm describing things pretty quickly. The amount of time spent doing things will probably differ. Maybe even the order that things are done will differ. But it will give you kind of an idea of what happens. Just take it with a grain of salt.
You'll arrive at the hospital early to check in. You'll change into your gown and get an IV hooked up. You will talk to your nurse(s) and perhaps a couple of other staff members. You'll then get put to sleep (injected through the IV that you had put in earlier). The operation then happens. You'll wake up, probably in the ICU, but possibly in your hospital room. Probably on the first or second day after surgery, you'll be shown how to sit and then stand. You'll be able to take walks up and down the hallway but you'll tire quickly. Your IV will be removed in a couple of days as will the catheter you've had in you since the surgery. You'll be allowed to go home once your stomach starts rumbling, you're eating, and going to the bathroom. When you are in the hospital, your scar will be checked by a doctor each day.
You will feel like a truck ran you over for the first couple of days. Once your body starts to recover, you'll feel better.
When you wake up from surgery, your bed will have a machine that gives measured doses of pain meds (morphine or something as effective). You're self-medicating, so if you're hurting, just hit a button. The machine won't let you overdose yourself, though.
You'll be weaned off of the meds from the machine and given oxycontin (or the like). This is what you'll be taking for the first few weeks you're at home.
Bottom line is that you'll be hurting, but you'll be given pain meds to take care of the pain. They'll do the job for you.
It still takes two months to be doing basic things. You'll be cleared to do more things at six months. At one year, you'll be able to do about anything you could do before the surgery. Take it easy. This is major surgery. It takes a while for the spine to fuse.
Complications can include infection, nerve damage, non-fusion, paralysis (very rare).
There's a couple of things, off-topic, that will make life easier for you.
o Make sure you has a robe in case you gets up in the middle of the night when the house is colder. The surgery may mess up your body's temperature control.
o Get a toilet seat extender so that you don't have to squat as far. These also have handles and certainly made my life a lot easier. Since your chest muscles are fine, you'll be able to use them to raise and lower yourself.
o It might be nice to get a "grabber" which will help you pick things up from the floor.
o You may or may not have a walker when you get home from the hospital (probably not, but...). I did and discovered that I had to meneuver through the bathroom door sideways because the walker was too wide. This works, but it may be a bit more difficult.
o You will be sleeping an awful lot. This is a combination of your body needing rest and the pain meds knocking you out. Expect it.
o When I was in my bed, my wife made kind of a "nest" with pillows so I wouldn't roll out. I don't normally roll but I think it made both of us feel better. You might want to do the same.
o It will be helpful to sit in a chair with arms when you're having his meals and is sitting at the dining room table. Since your chest muscles are fine, you'll be able to use them to raise and lower yourself.
Please email me if you have questions.