Instructions for Scoliosis/Spine Fusion Surgery Patients

These instructions are intended to provide information regarding spine surgery and the postoperative care. They address questions most frequently asked by the parents of children who are having this surgery.

Between 4 PM and 9 PM, on the evening prior to surgery, a nurse from the Ambulatory Surgical Unit will call and let you know when you need to stop eating food and all liquids and what time to arrive at the hospital. Please remember to bring the questionnaire, physical exam report filled out by your pediatrician and the surgical consent form with you to the hospital.

On the day of surgery, report to the security desk on the first floor of Children’s Hospital. You will be directed to the ambulatory surgical unit on the fourth floor. There, a nurse will prepare you for surgery and the anesthesiologist will speak to you. Parents may accompany children into the operating room.

After the operation, you will be transferred to the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (ICU). You will be there for one to two days. There are cots available and one parent may stay overnight in the ICU and on the general pediatric unit.

Pain medication is administered through a special pump. When you have pain, you will be able to give yourself medication to relieve the pain. About two days after surgery, the nurses and physical therapists will begin getting you up and out of bed. Soon you will be walking all around the pediatric unit.

The bandage on your back will be changed before you leave the hospital usually you’ll be able to take the bandage off 7-10 days after the operation. Often self-absorbing sutures are used so there is no need for “the sutures to be removed”. Sometimes staples are used and these need to be removed in a couple of weeks.

Most patients are able to take a shower (no baths) 7-10 days after the surgery check with your doctor. Once home you will need to take it easy in terms of activities for 4-6 weeks. Home tutoring will be needed during this time; please contact your school district early regarding this need. The doctor’s office will provide you with a letter for the home tutoring.

A follow up appointment with x-rays needs to be scheduled for 6 weeks after surgery. If everything is well, the next follow up appointment will be scheduled for 6 months after surgery.

Call the Doctor if:

  • You develop a fever (>101 degrees)
  • Your suture line becomes red, swollen, warm to touch, or if there is drainage from the wound.
  • If you have significant pain that is not being controlled by pain medication.
  • If you experience numbness, tingling or weakness in your legs or feet.


Activities that twist or rotate the spine need to be avoided during the first 6 months to one year. No gym or team sports for up to a year after surgery. At the 6 month check-up (after surgery) you can discuss with the doctor about increasing your allowed activities.

  • Light workout – after the 6 week check-up, you may walk on a treadmill or use an exercise bike and participate in a light workout to maintain physical fitness.
  • Swimming in a pool or the ocean is allowed, but swimming laps is not allowed.

Spine Fusion with Instrumentation: Post-op Guidelines for Activities

Activity 6 Weeks 6 Months One Year
School Return to class
Gym No gym Modified PE activities may be prescribed, check with M.D. Return to activities after M.D. consultation
Swimming In pool or ocean allowed as soon as wound heals, no laps
Lifting 5 to 10 lbs. No more than 5 to 10 lbs. allowed, consider book bag weight 5 to 10 lbs. Increase weight
Bicycling No Light cycling on level ground Return to activities after M.D. consultation
Light Jogging No Check with your M.D. Resume activities
Driving Per pre-op ability
Team Sports Not allowed Not allowed No impact sports, i.e. football, hockey, rugby
Amusement Park Rides Not allowed No roller coaster or rollover rides Per own discretion

Copyright © 2003, Michael Vitale, MD.
This information is the property of and has been provided by Michael Vitale, MD, Fellowship-trained Orthopaedic Surgeon