Cervical Spine Surgery Post-Operative Instructions

Robert H. Bradley, M.D.

Wound Care

Your incision site will likely be covered with Steri-strips. You may paint the Mercuroclear over the top of the Steri-strips daily for the first 2-3 days. Five to 7 days after your surgery you will need to wet the Steri-strips and peel them off the skin. After the Steri-strips are removed, you may shower and wash the incision. Until then, the incision should be kept dry. If there is no bone graft incision in your hip, you may sit in the tub as soon as you get home but keep the neck dry until the Steri-strips are removed. We recommend daily dressing changes. Once the Steri-strips are removed, you do not need to dress the incision again (unless your cervical collar irritates the wound). There are absorbable stitches under the skin (causing the incision to feel “bumpy” underneath) that will dissolve over time. We do NOT recommend the use of antibiotic ointments on your incision site. If you feel that additional cleansing is necessary, you may use hydrogen peroxide or Betadine.


If you notice any excess redness, drainage, fever, or any other obvious sign of infection, please contacts us.


We will discuss a prescription for pain before discharge. You are encouraged to use over-the-counter medicines like acetaminophen (e.g. Tylenol), and use the prescription pain medication for more severe pain if needed. Advil and Aleve work well but may interfere with the fusion process (so use these sparingly). Please try something over-the-counter before calling for a pain prescription refill (you may not need it).


We recommend wearing your cervical collar only for comfort following neck fusion, unless we have placed a rigid collar and instructed you not to remove it. It is important to keep your neck moving some after surgery to avoid stiffness. Avoid the extremes of lateral rotation, upward, and downward movement. The collar may help your neck relax if you are experiencing muscle spasms.


Continue any daily medications you were required to take before your surgery (unless we instruct you not to), and also any over-the-counter medication you would usually take for any other ache, pain, cold, or flu symptoms, etc. Constipation may be a problem due to limited activity, pain medicine, and fear of pain from straining to go. You may use any laxative that you use normally. Mineral oil works well (tastes bad) and doesn’t cause cramps. Try 2 tablespoons initially, repeat in 4 hours if no result; then use a Fleet’s enema if still no result.

Activity & Travel

If you had a fusion procedure (surgery from the front of the neck), do not drive for at least 2 weeks, and also try to stay out of the car during this time period, unless it is an emergency. Do not wear your collar while driving. If you had surgery on the back of your neck, and no fusion, we allow more movement of the neck earlier. You can probably begin driving short trips after 7-10 days, if the soreness is improved and you can comfortably turn to at least look in the rearview mirrors. We encourage walking. This will help build your strength up after anesthesia and surgery. Don’t pick up anything heavy, and avoid sudden movements of your neck.