Post-Operative Instructions: Anterior Cervical Spine Surgery

The following is a list of instructions, for your convalescence, following your neck surgery.

These represent general instructions to be used as guidelines. They may be modified for an individual patient. Follow all of the numbered instructions as well as the instructions marked with a check mark.

If you have any questions, please contact your physician.


The surgical procedure you had may have been performed in conjunction with another surgeon. Post operative questions can be addressed with either surgeon. This team approach leads to better patient care and outcome.


Post-operatively, your neck may or may not be supported by a cervical (neck) collar (soft or hard). Change your collar in front of a mirror to keep your head and neck still and to ensure you are wearing the collar properly!

  • You had a single level fusion, we generally do not use the collar.
  • You are to wear a soft cervical collar for several weeks. Individual cases may vary.
  • You are to wear a hard collar 4 to 10 weeks, depending upon the number of levels fused, whether instrumentation was used, and upon how the fusion is healing. Your surgeon will advise you.


Generally, neck pain following surgery is minimal. You will have some interscapular (between the shoulder blade) muscular discomfort or spasms. You may have difficulty swallowing or hoarseness. This should pass in 10-14 days. If your own bone was used for the graft, the donor site is usually more painful than your neck wound.


You can shower and wash your hair 48 hours following the surgery.

  • Your surgeon used skin glue and there is no dressing
  • You are wearing a hard collar, the nurses will provide you with a second collar to be worn while showering.
  • You are allowed to shower without your collar on
  • If you have dressings, you can remove the dressing by the 5th post-operative day and leave the incision(s) open to air.
  • The sutures or stitches we used on you are absorbable and do not need to be removed.
  • They will dissolve. Occasionally a small piece of dissolvable suture persists; bring this to the attention of your surgeon at your office visit.
  • You need to call the office for an appointment to have your stitches or staples removed 10-14 days after surgery.


Your first post-operative visit with your surgeon is usually 2 to 3 weeks after the surgery If you had a fusion you may need to get an X-Ray of your neck prior to your first post-operative visit with your surgeon. A prescription is included in the surgical packet of information that is mailed to you prior to your surgery.


You can drive a car with a soft collar on (no driving while taking narcotic pain medication). Usually, it is safe to drive yourself 10 days after the surgery, if your neck feels comfortable. Generally, if you are wearing a hard collar you may NOT drive. You can be a passenger in a car after one week.


When to return to work needs to be discussed with your surgeon.


You will be discharged with prescriptions for pain medication and/or muscle relaxants. Occasionally, you may need a sleeping pill if it is initially hard to sleep. Please call the office if you are in need of any prescriptions. Please be aware that prescriptions for narcotics will not be provided by a covering (on-call) surgeon.

Report any increase in post-operative pain, fever, chills, drainage, swelling of the wound, or any redness of the wound immediately. If there is drainage, note the color, amount and consistency. Also call us if you are having headaches. Do not hesitate to call if you have any questions

Department of Neurosurgery