Frequently Asked Questions
Spine Surgery Information... What Can I Expect?
Dr Oehme understand's that having a spine operation can be nervous time for patients and their families. Although we would all like to avoid surgery, unfortunately for some people, it will be necessary in order to best manage your condition and manage your pain. The following information serves to provide a general outline of what you can expect when undergoing spine surgery, and also serves to allay any fears or misconceptions you may have about the experience. Dr Oehme and his staff are very experienced in the process from beginning to end and will support you through your recovery.
Will I be in pain after spine surgery?
It is common to have some discomfort around the wound following surgery, however, this is usually easily controlled with simple pain medications. The level of pain relief required will depend on the type of procedure you are having. Dr Oehme minimises pain by routinely performing surgeries using keyhole and minimally invasive techniques. Dr Oehme and his team are very experienced in controlling pain after surgery and will keep you comfortable at all times.
How long will I be in hospital following spine surgery?
Most patients are in hospital between 1and 5 days following spinal surgery. Dr Oehme and his experienced staff will not discharge you home unless you are absolutely safe and ready to go home. Sometimes patients might need some time in rehabilitation prior to going home.
Where will my incision be?
The location of your incision will depend on the procedure you are having and the location of the problem. Dr Oehme will always minimise the size of the incision and attempt to place the incision in a cosmetically favourable position.
Will I have a scar?
If you have surgery there will always be a scar. Dr Oehme will always minimise the size of the incision and attempt to place the incision in a cosmetically favourable position so that the scar is not obvious. As most procedures are performed using minimally invasive keyhole techniques you scar will generally be small.
What medications will I need to take during my hospital stay?
Dr Oehme and his experienced staff will advise you about what medications you will need to take around the time of surgery. Common medications used in spinal surgery include:
- Steroids (Dexamethasone) to reduce swelling
- Pantoprazole or other medication to protect from stomach ulcers
- Clexane to prevent blood clots in the legs (DVT)
- Paracetamol for pain relief
- NSAIDs and other anti-inflammatories
- Opioid pain medications
What medications will I need to stop before my surgery?
Dr Oehme and his staff will advise you on medications which are safe to continue during your operation and those that need to be stopped. Most medications are safe to continue, however, those that affect blood clotting or wound healing are generally stopped prior to surgery. We will advise how long you must be off the mediation before it is safe to have surgery. Medications we typically ask you to stop taking are:
- Dabigatran (Pradaxa)
- Rivaroxaban (Xarelto)
What radiology scans will I need to have?
Most patients will need to have a new MRI scan prior to surgery. If you are unable to have an MRI generally a CT scan is sufficient. It is important that you bring all of your previous radiology films with you to hospital. Dr Oehme and his staff will advise you on what scans you need to have.
What hospitals does Dr Oehme perform spine operations?
Dr Oehme currently operates at the following hospitals in Melbourne.
- St Vincent's Public Hospital in Melbourne (brain, spine and peripheral nerve surgeries)
- St Vincent's Private Hospital in Melbournem (brain, spine and peripheral nerve surgeries)
- St John of God Private Hospital in Berwick (spine and peripheral nerve surgeries only)
- Waverley Private Hospital in Mount Waverley (peripheral nerve surgeries only)
- Eastern Health - Box Hill Public Hospital (spine and peripheral nerve surgeries only)
- Epworth Hospital in Richmond (brain, spine and peripheral nerve surgeries)
- Warringal Private Hospital in Heidelberg (spine and peripheral nerve surgeries only)
Please note that Dr Oehme does not perform all procedures at all hospitals. Complex brain and spine procedures are typically performed at St Vincent's Public and St Vincent's Private Hospital in Melbourne. See our locations page for more information.
Will I need rehabilitation?
Most patients are in hospital between 1 and 5 days following spinal surgery. The length of time depends on the time of procedure you have had. Dr Oehme and his experienced staff will not discharge you home unless you are absolutely safe and ready to go home. Sometimes patients might need some time in rehabilitation prior to going home to increase strength and mobility. We will organise this for you.
What are the costs of Dr Oehme performing spine surgery?
Please contact Dr Oehme's rooms for detailed information about our surgical fee structure for private patients. Dr Oehme is an AMA member. The out-of-pocket expense will depend on the procedure to be undertaken, the patient's health fund and level of cover. Patient's may also have to pay a hospital excess depending on their level of private insurance cover. In addition, there is generally an out-of-pocket anaesthetic fee. Patient's will be advised of all fees prior to surgery.
WorkCover and TAC patients require approval of all procedures by the relevant body prior to surgery. There is no out-of-pocket expense to the patient following approval.
DVA patients are not subject to out of pocket fees.
Public patients will be operated at St Vincent's Public Hospital and there is no out of pocket charge as this is covered by Medicare.
Self-funded patients will be given a quote for the surgical, anaesthetic, hospital and equipment costs prior to surgery.
Informed financial consent will be obtained from all patients prior to their procedure.
What are the risks of having spine surgery?
With modern techniques most cranial neurosurgical procedures can be performed without any serious complications. However, like any surgical procedure there are risks associated with the anaesthetic and the procedure itself.
Risks of Anaesthesia
Risks of anaesthesia will be discussed with you by your anaesthetist prior to surgery. It is important that you inform us of your correct age and any past medical problems, as this can influence the risk of anaesthesia. Risks include:
- Heart problems, such as heart attack (AMI) or arrhythmia
- Lung problems, such as infection (pneumonia) or blood clots
- Urinary tract infection
- Deep Venous Thrombosis (DVT)
- Eye or visual problems
- Pressure wounds
- Small risk of significant life-threatening event
General Risks of Spine Surgery
Although surgery is generally safe, there are some risks whenever performing a craniotomy. These include:
Although spine surgery is generally safe, there are some risks whenever operations on the spine are performed. These include:
- Infection 1-2%
- Bleeding. This can occur at the time of surgery and may necessitate a blood transfusion. It can also occur at some time after surgery. Rarely another operation is required to drain the bloodclot and stop the bleeding.
- Spine fluid leak (CSF leak)
- Small risk of significant neurological injury causing paralysis
- Chronic pain
Specific Risks of Spine Surgery
The specific risks depend on your condition and will be discussed with you in detail prior to surgery. Whether or not you have had previous surgery and other factors can also influence surgical risks but may include:
- Pain in the lower back
- Nerve injury causing pain, numbness, weakness in the legs
- Nerve injury causing bowel or bladder problems
- Progressive deformity of the lumbar spine - kyphosis or spondylolisthesis
- Requirement for fusion at later stage
- Incomplete decompression of nerves
- Persistant symptoms
- Recurrence of symptoms
- Adjacent segment disease
- Spinal instability
- Requirement for fusion
- Spinal cord injury causing paralysis
For more information about specific risks see our individual spine surgeries performed page.