Spinal Stenosis Surgery: How to Prepare

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Spinal stenosis surgery will be a scheduled procedure determined between you and your healthcare provider if your spinal stenosis symptoms continue to significantly impact everyday life even after trying conservative measures. Depending on the availability of the surgeon and the availability of the operating room schedule, you may have to wait several weeks or months to schedule your spinal stenosis surgery.

Health insurance claim form application for medicare coverage and medical treatment for patient admitted in hospital ward
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Spinal stenosis surgery is performed in a hospital operating room. You should expect to stay overnight for at least one night in the hospital so that the medical staff can make sure you are stable before you are discharged home.

Your length of stay will vary based on the procedure that you have performed in order to treat the extent of your spinal stenosis. For a discectomy, laminectomy, or foraminotomy, you can expect to stay one to two days before being discharged home. Spinal fusion surgeries are more involved and typically require a longer stay of three to five days.

You may be asked to arrive several hours ahead of time before your scheduled operation so that you have adequate time to find parking, navigate the hospital, fill out all required paperwork, and undergo a physical examination to clear you for surgery.

Always make sure to call your healthcare provider or 911 if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

What to Wear

You will be asked to remove all clothing, undergarments, and jewelry and change into a hospital gown before being brought into the operating room. Make sure to wear clothing that is easy to change out of and keep valuables at home to prevent anything from getting lost.

After your surgery, you may have some soreness and discomfort in your back, so it is best to come prepared with loose, comfortable clothing to change into after the operation.

Cotton t-shirts and pants with an elastic or drawstring waistband are good options for easy dressing and undressing. They will also keep you comfortable while you are resting and recovering in your hospital room.

Food and Drink

Eating or drinking before spinal stenosis surgery can cause problems during surgery and result in potential interactions with anesthesia while you are undergoing the operation. As a general recommendation, you should stop eating and drinking between eight to twelve hours before your scheduled procedure to minimize risks. This includes:

  • All meals, whether large or small
  • Snacks
  • Candies, mints, and gum
  • Beverages, including coffee and tea
  • Alcohol
  • Water

Eating a healthy diet and staying adequately hydrated in the days and weeks leading up to your surgery will help minimize inflammation in your body and ease your recovery from the operation.


You may need to stop taking certain medications (such as blood thinners) in the days leading up to the surgery to prevent excess bleeding or interaction with anesthesia during the operation. Always consult with your healthcare provider about all prescriptions, over-the-counter medications, and supplements that you are taking for your safety.

Your healthcare provider will inform you if you need to stop taking any medications before the operation and will provide you with an appropriate timeline to do so. You may need to stop taking certain medications as far out as one week before your scheduled surgery, while other medications may be taken the morning of your surgery.

If your healthcare provider permits you to take medication the day of your surgery, be sure to do so with as little water as possible to minimize fluid content in the stomach and rest of the gastrointestinal system.

There are no specific medications that you need to take to prepare for your spinal stenosis surgery. The surgical team will administer the correct dosage of anesthesia through an IV in either your arm or hand to ensure that you are asleep and do not feel anything during the operation. You will also be given appropriate pain medication after the operation to help with your recovery.

What to Bring

Make sure to pack important belongings that you will need during your hospital stay on the night before your scheduled operation. Depending on the type of procedure performed, you can expect to stay anywhere between one and five days in the hospital so be sure to plan accordingly. Items you will need for your surgery include:

  • A form of identification, such as a driver’s license or passport
  • Insurance documentation
  • Loose, comfortable clothing to change into after the operation

To make your stay more relaxing and comfortable, you may also want to bring:

  • Your cell phone and charger
  • Glasses or contact lenses
  • Toiletries
  • Headphones
  • Books or magazines

Make sure to arrange for a friend or family member to provide transportation for you to and from the hospital as you will not be allowed to drive to or from the hospital before or after your surgery.

If your friend or family member is accompanying you into the hospital, you will likely to be asked to park in the visitors’ parking lot. You can talk to the hospital staff to ask about obtaining a parking voucher to waive the hospital’s parking fee if there is one.

Pre-Op Lifestyle Changes

Conservative measures like medications, cortisone injections, and physical therapy will be used for several weeks to help manage symptoms before the possibility of spinal stenosis surgery is considered.

Your healthcare provider will then schedule a surgical consult to discuss potential risks of undergoing spinal stenosis surgery if significant symptoms that impact your quality of life still persist. Your healthcare provider will review your current health status, age, and medical history to determine if you are an appropriate candidate for the operation.

It is recommended that you stay active, eat a healthy diet, and stop smoking prior to any operation to promote optimal healing and make recovery as smooth as possible.

Minimizing stress and prioritizing good mental and emotional health are also important to lower levels of inflammation in the body to aid in your recovery. The healthier you go into surgery, the easier recovery and rehabilitation will be to get you back to participating in your everyday activities.

A Word From Verywell

Surgery for spinal stenosis can vary based on the type of procedure performed. The surgical team will provide you with more detailed instructions regarding what you will need to do in the days and hours before surgery depending on your procedure type and medical history.

Always follow your healthcare provider’s instructions, especially if you need to stop taking certain medications, to avoid complications during surgery and ensure best possible outcomes of your operation. Going into the hospital with a positive outlook will also help make the process and transition home from the hospital smoother and easier.

3 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. NYU Langone Health. Surgery for spinal stenosis.

  2. Cleveland Clinic. Spinal stenosis: Management and treatment.

  3. Mayfield Clinic. Lumbar discectomy.

By Kristen Gasnick, PT, DPT
Kristen Gasnick, PT, DPT, is a medical writer and a physical therapist at Holy Name Medical Center in New Jersey.