Patients ask us all the time, “What can I expect after my surgery?” The truth is, every patient’s surgery and recovery is a little different than other patients’. Be sure to ask your healthcare provider for more information about your surgery and what you can expect in recovery, so you have a clear understanding of what the process will be like. While you’re preparing to talk to your physician more about your procedure, here is some general information about what to expect after an eXtreme Lateral Interbody Fusion (XLIF) procedure.

After surgery you’ll wake up in the recovery room, where your vital signs will be monitored and your immediate postoperative condition will be carefully observed. Most patients stay in the recovery room between one and three hours after surgery. Once the medical staff feels that you are doing well, you will be returned to your hospital room. It is normal for your incision to be sore immediately after surgery.

Most XLIF patients are discharged from the hospital within one or two days after surgery, but your physician will determine the best postoperative course for you. The day after your surgery, your physician may instruct you to use a brace for a period of time to assist with the spinal fusion process. Supervised by trained medical professionals, your physician may ask you to carefully sit, stand, or walk within 24 hours of the surgery.

Once you’re discharged from the hospital it is important to limit your activities for a period of time. Your healthcare provider will make recommendations on what activities to limit, to give your body a chance to heal. Your physician will discuss with you any pain medications to take home, as well as a prescribed program of activities. Your physician will provide instructions on wound care, exercises, and limitations to postoperative activity.

Keep in mind that all surgery presents risks and complications that are important to discuss with your physician, prior to your surgery. Listening to your physician’s guidance, both before and after surgery, will help to ensure the best possible outcome from your procedure. Potential risks following XLIF surgery include: problems with anesthesia, infection, nerve damage, problems with the graft or hardware, and ongoing pain. This isn’t a complete list of the possible complications, so be sure to discuss all potential risks with your healthcare provider.

You can also talk with a patient who’s had the XLIF procedure. The Better Way Back has a network of Patient Ambassadors who talk to patients considering the XLIF procedure. These Patient Ambassadors share their first-hand experiences with the XLIF procedure and help answer questions about what to expect after surgery. If you’re interested in being paired with a Patient Ambassador, fill out the Join Our Community form and we’ll connect you with a Patient Ambassador.