Discharge Instructions for Cervical Fusion

You had a cervical fusion. During this procedure, your healthcare provider locked together (fused) some of the bones in the curve of your neck. This limits the movement of these bones to help relieve your pain. Here’s what you need to know about home care following a cervical fusion.


Do’s and don’ts include: 

  • Arrange your household to keep the items you need within reach.

  • Remove electrical cords, throw rugs, and anything else that may cause you to fall.

  • Follow your healthcare provider’s instructions for wearing a cervical collar or brace. The neck collar or brace is important because it supports and correctly positions your neck after surgery. Be sure to follow instructions for its care, use, and the length of time you must wear it.

  • Don’t bend or twist at the waist, or raise your hands over your head for 2 week(s) after your surgery.

  • Don’t drive until your healthcare provider says it’s OK. This will most likely be when you can move your neck from side to side freely and without pain. Never drive while you are taking opioid pain medicine.

  • Walk as much as possible. You may also go up and down stairs as much as you can tolerate. Walking outside or walking on a treadmill at a slow speed with no incline is OK.

  • Don’t lift anything heavier than 5 pounds.

  • Ask your healthcare provider when you can return to work.

Other home care

Additional tips include: 

  • Take your medicine exactly as directed. Talk to your healthcare provider about pain medicine.

  • Don’t take nonsteroidal, anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs), such as aspirin and ibuprofen unless your healthcare provider approves. They may delay or prevent proper fusion of bone.

  • Wait 5 to 7 days after your surgery to begin showering. Then shower as needed. You may be instructed to use a neck collar while you shower. If so, carefully remove it when you finish showering. Then keep your neck correctly positioned as you gently pat dry your skin, the incision, and the neck collar. Then put the neck collar back on. Don’t rub the incision, or apply creams or lotions on it.

  • Don’t soak in bathtubs, hot tubs, or swimming pools until instructed by your healthcare provider.

  • Your incision may have been closed using sutures, staples, or strips of tape. If you have sutures or staples they may need to be removed 2 to 3 weeks after surgery. You can allow strips of tape to fall off on their own.

  • If you smoke, quit. Smoking slows healing of bone and you may need more surgery. Enroll in a stop-smoking program to improve your chances of success.


  • Make a follow-up appointment.

  • Keep appointments for X-rays. They will be taken often to check the status of the cervical fusion.


When to seek medical attention

Call 911 right away if you have any of the following:

  • Chest pain

  • Shortness of breath

  • Trouble controlling your bowels or bladder

  • Painful calf that is warm to the touch and tender with pressure

Otherwise, call your healthcare provider immediately if you have any of the following:

  • Drainage, redness, or warmth at the incision

  • Fever above 100.4°F (38.0°C) or shaking chills

  • Weakness, tingling, or any new numbness in your arms or legs

  • Increased pain

  • Trouble swallowing


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