Preparing for Surgery

Spine Surgery

Surgical treatment of spinal disorders can be grouped into three categories:

1 Decompression

Decompressive procedures involve relieving pressure on the spinal cord or nerve roots by removing bones, ligaments, or discs.

The most commonly performed procedures include lumbar microdiscectomy (posterior or anterior), anterior cervical discectomy, lumbar laminectomy, or decompression.

2 Removing abnormal spinal motion

There are two methods to correct abnormal spinal motion.

Surgeons can perform either a disc replacement, where the problematic spinal disc is replaced with an artificial one, or a spinal fusion, where two or more blocks of the spine are fixed together.

3 Realignment of the spine

When the spine is abnormally curved, a condition known as scoliosis, a spinal fusion can help realign and fuse the curved vertebrae, allowing them to heal into a single, solid bone.

Preparing for surgery & procedure

1 Preparing for surgery

Before you have surgery, it is essential to properly prepare yourself to ensure a smooth recovery process. Once you've had surgery, recovery will take work and perseverance. By following our guidelines and having practical expectations, you'll recover more quickly and minimise the risk of complications. Remember, surgery fixes the problem; hard work and commitment achieve the desired outcomes. 

Pre-surgery recommendations include:

  • Nutrition: Eat a well-balanced diet. Unless specifically advised, do not put on weight.

  • Smoking: Stop or significantly reduce smoking.

  • Weight: If advised, lose weight. This will help decrease the stress on your new joint.

  • Health Concerns: Treat any tooth, gum, bladder or bowel problems before surgery to reduce the risk of infection later.

  • Medication: Discuss with your surgeon before taking aspirin, anti-inflammatory medications, warfarin or any drugs that increase the risk of bleeding one week before surgery to minimise bleeding. 

  • Everyday objects: Before surgery, put items you use often within easy reach, so you won't have to reach and bend as often.

  • Tripping hazards: Remove all loose carpets and tape down electrical cords to avoid falls.

  • Seating: Make sure you have a stable chair with a firm seat cushion, a firm back and two arms.

  • Sleep: Ensure you have a comfortable mattress and pillow ready for recovery.

  • Walking: Before your surgery, it's a good idea to chat with your surgeon about when and how much you should walk afterwards. This way, you'll know what to expect and feel more comfortable getting up and moving around.

  • Rehab champions: Start building relationships with healthcare professionals that will help you on your road to recovery (for example, physiotherapists, osteopaths, personal trainers, and acupuncturists). By building relationships now, you will have a solid team to support you after surgery.

  • Breathe: Shallow breathing is known to increase anxiety and pain. Try deep-belly breathing exercises and consciously breathe in for 3 counts and out for 5 counts. This sort of breathwork increases oxygenation, decreases anxiety, and can decrease pain. Consider Aerofit, a Respiratory Muscle Training (RMT) device that helps strengthen lungs and breathing.

Click here to download your copy of our Preparing for Surgery Checklist.

2 Working with your doctor

Before undergoing surgery, we will ensure that you are fully prepared for the procedure.

Dr Ferguson will carry out the following with you:

  • A comprehensive physical examination to rule out any underlying conditions that may interfere with the surgery or its outcome.

  • Routine tests, including blood tests and X-rays, which are usually conducted a week before major surgery.

  • A review of your medications to determine whether you need to stop taking them before the surgery. You will also discuss options for blood replacement, such as donating your own blood beforehand, medical interventions, and other treatments.

  • A check for any ongoing infections, as it is not safe to perform surgery until all infections have cleared up.

3 Instructions for post-surgery

Here’s how to stay safe and comfortable after your surgery:

  • Get help to go home. Make sure you have someone who can take you home – you won’t be able to drive for at least 24 hours.

  • Do not drink or eat anything in the car. The combination of anaesthesia, food and car motion can often cause nausea or vomiting.

  • Wait until you’re hungry before trying to eat. When you arrive home and feel hungry, start with a light meal and avoid greasy food for the first 24 hours.

  • Take your pain medicine as directed. Begin the pain medicine as you start feeling uncomfortable, but before you are in severe pain. If you wait until the pain is severe, you will have more difficulty controlling it.

Read more about the steps you can take to optimise your healing process.



1 What should I bring with me when I come to an appointment?

You’ll need:

  • Your referral letter from your GP, family physician or other doctor

  • Your insurance information

  • Copies of operation records, medical records, X-rays, MRIs, CT scans from previous doctor visits

  • If you’ve seen a physiotherapist, a progress letter relaying your background

2 Are my medical records kept private and confidential?

Your medical file is handled securely and with the utmost respect for your privacy. Our staff are bound by strict confidentiality requirements as a condition of employment. We will not release any contents of your medical file without your consent.

3 What should I expect during my first visit?

  1. First, you’ll fill in a detailed health questionnaire before seeing Dr Ferguson for your consultation.

  2. During your consultation, he’ll do an examination and review any X-rays or other test results.

  3. He’ll then provide recommendations on your condition and together you’ll decide the best individual treatment plan.

  4. If you need surgery, Dr Ferguson will explain the specific procedure, what it involves and the benefits and risks. You’ll also meet with the practice nurse who will support you before and after your surgery.

  5. At any point, feel free to ask as many questions as you like.

4 Is Spinal Clinic suitable for ordering urgent imaging including X-rays, MRIs and CT scans?

If you require urgent imaging, it is recommended that you do not use Spinal Clinic. Instead, we suggest contacting your GP to obtain a referral to a musculoskeletal specialist who can assist you with urgent treatment.

5 Can Spinal Clinic treat patients with acute injuries that require immediate treatment?

Spinal Clinic is not equipped to provide urgent treatment for patients with acute injuries. Because we cannot accept urgent referrals, we suggest contacting your GP or the nearest hospital for immediate medical attention.

6 What non-surgical interventions may help alleviate back or neck pain?

If you're awaiting surgery or have opted for a non-surgical treatment, you may wonder how to take care of yourself during this time. Our Preparing for Surgery Checklist offers various helpful suggestions for maintaining your wellbeing. We highly recommend reading it and keeping a copy handy during your journey.

7 What are your business hours?

Monday – Friday, 8:30 am to 5:30 pm.

Appointments can be at 09 475 6333.

To make an enquiry, contact us