Neck Surgery: How to Prepare

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Regardless of the type of neck surgery you'll be having, putting certain measures in place before your operation will give you peace of mind as you head into your procedure. During the weeks leading up to your operation, healthy lifestyle choices can make all the difference in preparing your body for a strong recovery. Here's what to expect as you get ready for surgery and on the day of your procedure.

Preparing for surgery for neck pain

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Location

Cosmetic neck surgery (such as a neck lift) may be performed at a hospital, a licensed ambulatory surgery center, or an accredited office-based surgical facility. Neck lifts are typically done on an outpatient basis, so you won't be staying overnight after the procedure.

Due to anesthesia and other pain medications, you'll need to arrange for someone to drive you home after surgery. You'll also want to have a trusted friend or family member available to stay with you during your first night at home, if not for a few days following the procedure.

Neck surgeries involving the spine are done in a hospital setting. Three common operations include:

  • Anterior cervical discectomy: Problematic discs and bone spurs are removed and replaced with a bone graft. Your doctor will decide when you're ready to go home after surgery based on your pain level, appetite, and mobility (usually after one night).
  • Posterior cervical discectomy and foraminotomy: Portions of disc tissue are removed from the back of the neck to make additional space and relieve nerve compression. The length of hospital stay is typically two days.
  • Disc replacement or cervical arthroplasty procedure: A damaged cervical disc is removed and replaced with a prosthetic disc. Every patient is different, but sometimes patients are able to go home on the same day of this surgery depending on their physical state.

Neck surgery for cancer treatment is also performed in a hospital setting and is often paired with other therapies. Depending on the severity of your condition, a prolonged hospital stay may be required.

The side effects of neck surgery can make eating, breathing, and speaking more difficult. In this case, a team of specialists will work with you to ensure that you're stable enough to return home safely. If you're not quite ready to be back home, you may be transitioned to a temporary rehabilitation facility to provide extended care and proper support during your recovery.

What to Wear

Wear loose, comfortable clothing to surgery that's easy to take on and off. Choose a top with buttons or a zipper. Typical recommendations for patients undergoing anesthesia include avoiding:

  • Contact lenses
  • Deodorant
  • Lotions
  • Make-up
  • Nail polish
  • Perfume
  • Jewelry

Be sure to follow your doctor's instructions before going in for your surgery appointment. Review all written recommendations that you were provided and call ahead if you have any questions.

Depending on the nature of your procedure, your doctor may ask you to wash with antibacterial soap or shampoo to reduce the risk of contamination. Following these guidelines can help prevent dangerous infections.

Food and Drink

Neck surgeries that require general anesthesia usually require you to abstain from all food and drink starting at midnight on the eve of your procedure. Sips of clear liquids may be allowed for the purpose of taking medication. If your neck surgery only requires a local anesthetic (which is often the case for some plastic surgery treatments) the rules on food and drink may be less strict.

It's crucial to follow your surgeon's rules on pre-surgery food and drink. Having anything in your stomach while under general anesthesia puts you at greater risk for serious complications.

Medications

Blood thinners are of particular concern when undergoing surgery. Because these medications increase your risk of bleeding, your doctor may advise discontinuing them prior to your procedure. Examples of blood thinners include:

  • Aspirin
  • Advil, Motrin (ibuprofen)
  • Aleve (naproxen)
  • Coumadin (warfarin)

Herbal supplements and vitamins should be avoided before surgery unless approved by your surgeon.

Always inform your doctor of any medications and supplements you take before surgery.

In the event that you aren't feeling well before your scheduled surgery, be sure to let your doctor know. Chest pains, rashes, cold and flu symptoms, or a cough should be reported to your surgeon who can then evaluate if you're well enough to have the procedure. It's better to risk postponing an operation than putting yourself in harm's way by keeping vital information from your surgeon.

What to Bring

For plastic surgery of the neck or another outpatient neck operation, you probably won't need to bring much along with you for the trip. Take your wallet with your insurance information, personal identification, and any required paperwork.

It's best to leave your valuables, including cash and jewelry at home. Remember to bring a trusted friend or family member to drive you to and from surgery.

For more extensive neck surgery, pack the basic necessities that you'll want to have with you during your stay at the hospital. If you wear glasses, be sure to bring them with you. Take your cell phone and a cell phone charger, along with deodorant, toothpaste, a toothbrush, comfortable clothes, and flat shoes that are easy to slip on and off.

If you have any questions about what will be provided during your hospital stay, call the facility in advance. Plan ahead so you can be comfortable during your recovery without lugging unnecessary items with you.

Pre-Op Lifestyle Changes

Getting yourself in the best possible shape before heading into an operation is a proactive way to get a kickstart on your recovery. The healthier you are before neck surgery, the more quickly you'll be able to recover. Pre-surgery lifestyle changes that are worth making include:

  • Eat nutritiously
  • Engage in regular exercise
  • Get enough sleep
  • Lose excess body weight
  • Quit smoking

If you have diabetes, it's essential to work with your provider on getting your blood sugar under control for optimal wound healing before and after you have surgery.

A Word From Verywell

The prospect of undergoing neck surgery can be daunting. Ask questions ahead of time so you know what to expect on the day of your procedure.

Focus on the benefits you're that looking forward to after surgery (such as improved appearance, less pain, better mobility, etc.) and let your surgeon worry about the nitty-gritty details of the procedure. As long as you follow the recommendations provided by your surgeon, you can rest assured that you'll be in good hands.

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Article Sources
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  2. New Jersey Neck & Back Institute. P.C. Cervical neck surgery recovery guide: 5 tips to speed up time it takes to heal.

  3. American Society of Clinical Oncology. Head and neck cancer: types of treatment. Updated October 2019.

  4. American Society of Anesthesiologists. Preparing for surgery: Checklist.

  5. MedlinePlus. The night before your surgery. Updated November 3, 2020.