Patient Information

Helpful Advice For Your Stay In Hospital - by Lynn Burton

This Information Is Not To Be Taken As Medical Advice

Everything below is based on my stay as an inpatient for, first a Cranio vertebral decompression surgery, then 3 years later a revision surgery.  Although the surgeries were carried out by different neurosurgeons at different hospitals the pre and post op care routine was basically the same. 

The information below is not meant as, or to be taken as medical advice. It is an idea of what you may experience during a hospital stay as a patient for decompression surgery. 

What may be useful during your stay in hospital?

  • Nightwear, lots of it, hospitals are often warm and stuffy and you may want to change your nightwear daily.
  • For ladies, nightdresses for the first few days just in case you have a catheter, much easier to manage in this situation than PJ’s.
  • Lots of underwear is a good idea, always made me more confident when getting in and out of bed, until I could wear pyjamas again.
  • Gents too I think would feel more confident getting in and out of bed with underwear on under PJ’s.
  • The usual toiletries, toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant etc

Additional items may be:

  • An antibacterial soap (I used Cidal soap but there are other brands) used at home for a couple of weeks before surgery, while I was in hospital and for a few weeks post op.  
  • Mouthwash is useful.
  • Lip balm is a must as lips can get very dry and cracked.
  • Face and skin moisturiser as hospitals tend to dry out the skin, and using elbows to push up into a sitting position means they sometimes get a little sore.
  • Favourite soft drinks, lots of these as you need to keep your fluid intake up. 
  • Little snacks, individual packs of biscuits, crisps, crackers etc. as you may not feel like eating much, but maybe tempted by little things.  Breakfast bars are useful too.
  • Most neurosurgery units don’t allow flowers on the wards so maybe visitors could bring your favourite snacks/small meals for you, but be warned this makes you the envy of the other patients!
  • I went through lots of chewy mints and boiled sweets, they keep your mouth moist. 
  • MP3 player for when you’re feeling a bit more human again.
  • Books, although for the first few days I found a magazine better to just pick up and put down. 
  • Audio books may be an idea too.
  • A member of staff recommended a portable DVD player with earphones and DVD’s. It did help me relax. 
  • Many hospitals will allow mobile phone use, as long as the ringtone is muted so other patients aren’t disturbed.  Signal is usually good so an IPad or laptop may be a good idea to keep in touch with family and friends.  You will usually be able to plug chargers in by the bed.  Permission to use mobile phones while in the hospital will vary from hospital to hospital. 
  • There will be bedside pay as you view TV and telephone available, but this is usually quite expensive especially for relatives calling you, often charged at 50p per minute!

Pre op - The evening before, or on the morning of your surgery a member of the neurosurgical team will visit to discuss the surgery with you and ask you to sign a consent form.  An anesthetist will visit to explain what will happen when you are taken to theatre.  Like many patients I slept very little the night before surgery so take a good book or film to watch.  The hours will pass more quickly. 

Post op - When you wake you will usually be in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), it is usual for you to stay in the unit overnight for close neuro observations.  You will be wakened at regular intervals and asked to move your arms and legs, a nurse will shine a pen torch into your eyes to check pupil reaction.  A blood pressure collar will be permanently on your arm and will inflate automatically to keep a check on your blood pressure. 

A nurse will be close by the bed at all times during your time in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). 

If you are experiencing any pain this is usually managed well. 

Some patients will have a catheter, this is a thin tube inserted into the bladder during surgery to drain urine.  This will be removed as soon as you are able to use a bedpan or get to the bathroom.  Not all patients will need a catheter. 

You will usually have an intravenous drip into the arm via a cannula to keep you hydrated, this is removed as soon as you are taking fluids normally again.

If all is ok the morning after surgery you will usually be moved back to the neurosurgical ward at some point during the day. 

Once on the ward the hourly neuro obs will usually continue.  You will be offered regular pain relief to ensure you’re comfortable. 

You may sleep a lot over the next day or so, while others will feel more alert. 

It’s usual that maybe 48 hours or so post op the physiotherapy team will visit to advice on getting moving.  Some patients will be helped to get out of bed and stand for a few minutes, for some it will be another couple of days before you feel up to doing this. 

One thing you must do while in bed is to flex your feet up and down and ‘draw’ circles with your feet, this helps with circulation and eases stiff legs. 

During this time nursing staff will ensure that you are comfortable and fresh, with daily bed baths and your bed linen changed.

The Physiotherapy team will usually visit on a daily basis with the aim to getting you mobile and on the road to going home.

The neurosurgical team will also visit daily to check you are progressing well.

The occupational therapist may visit as your discharge date approaches to see if you may need any aids to help you when you’re home.  Shower stools, ‘sitting’ stools etc.  If you need any of these aids they will usually be delivered to your home before you are discharged, ready for your arrival home.  

Everyone recovers from their surgery differently, there are no set rules.  Don’t push yourself, your body needs time to recover.

It’s important not to strain when using the toilet, nursing staff will ask if you need anything to help, I know we don’t like talking about it but nursing staff know the post op problems and it’s better to tell them than be uncomfortable. 

Washing your hair - We all long for the day when we can wash our hair again, as a rule best left until the stiches/clips are removed, and the wound is healing well.  Baby shampoo is advised and try to leave the wound area as dry as possible, if someone can help the first few times it’s much easier. 

On your discharge from hospital you will be prescribed medication to take home with you.

It may be a good idea to ask whoever is taking you home to bring a pillow to support your head on the journey home.  The motion of the car may make you feel a little sick. 

When you’re home your GP will usually visit to make sure everything is ok.

You may notice around now that your neck is still stiff and uncomfortable to move, this is completely normal.  It will take a while for everything to heal, don’t force your neck round too much, just gentle head movement turning your head from side to side at first, start turning your head two or three times, gently increasing a little more every day.  Gentle movements up and down too.  Don’t force these movements and take it slowly. Please stop if these movements make you feel sick or dizzy.

Around day 14 post op, stiches and clips will be removed, you may be asked to attend your GP surgery or if you are still feeling unwell request a home visit from thedistrict nurse to remove them. 

You may find that you need extra or less pillows than before surgery to get comfortable in bed. 

Contact the hospital or your GP if you begin to feel unwell during your first few days at home.

Rest is so important once you’re home, you’ll need help around the house, ladies letsomeone else take over the cooking and the housework, don’t rush things, gents same thing applies to you too, if you feel tired sleep, rest, rest, and more rest.  Once again everyone is different and some may recover and be back to normal fairly quickly, for others it may take a little longer to feel ‘normal’ again. Do everything at your own pace, you know how you feel, listen to your body. 

Lynn Burton

The above was my experience during my hospital stays, each patient's experience will be different.

This Information Is Not To Be Taken As Medical Advice