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Preparing Your Child for Spine Surgery

The idea of your child—regardless of her age—having spine surgery can be a little scary. That is why you can take comfort in knowing your child’s spine is in the hands of a team that performs more spine surgeries than any other pediatric hospital in the country.*

The idea of your child—regardless of her age—having spine surgery can be a little scary. That is why you can take comfort in knowing your child’s spine is in the hands of a team that performs more spine surgeries each year than any other pediatric hospital in the country.

At Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, we provide expertise in diagnosing, treating and caring for children and teens with spine issues. Our surgeons are pediatric trained, working with kids from birth to age 21, so they know that parents may have questions when preparing their child to undergo spine surgery.

Dr. Schmitz with teen spine patient before surgery. 

Before your child’s surgery, you should be prepared for a few key things:

  • Patient safety while in the hospital
  • Infection prevention and hygiene
  • Talking to your child about her surgery
  • Pre-operative preparation and nutrition
  • When your child can go home and the after-surgery plan for recovery
  • How to manage discomfort
  • Rehabilitation needs

 

Your Spine Surgery Handbook

During your child’s pre-operative appointment before her procedure, you will receive a Spine Surgery Handbook (en Español) to help guide your family through this process—from start to finish. We recommend you read this handbook and ask your care team any questions you may have.



It’s only natural to have questions in the time leading up to your child’s spine surgery. These are some of the most common questions the pediatric spine specialists at Children’s receive from parents as families prepare for surgery.

Our pediatric spine specialists are dedicated to providing the best care possible and answering any questions parents may have before their child undergoes spine surgery. So if you have any concerns before—or even during or after—your child’s procedure, don’t hesitate to ask.

 

Depending on the type of spine surgery your child has, she may be hospitalized from two to five days. The average length of stay for spine surgery patients at Children’s is three days, which is shorter than most other pediatric hospitals in the country.* 

It’s normal for your child to have pain and discomfort following her surgery; however, if you are concerned, we encourage you to call your child’s doctor after surgery if your child has:

  • A temperature of 101°F
  • Increased redness, swelling, tenderness, pain or warmth around the incision site
  • Drainage, pain or a bad smell coming from the incision site
  • Open areas along the incision line
  • Pain that does not get better with pain medicine
  • Numbness or tingling in the arms, legs or feet
  • Changes in bowel or bladder control
  • Vomiting


Our dedicated spine program manager helps coordinate a patient’s experience by providing complete follow-up care and helping make sure families have the information and resources they need before, during and after care. The spine program manager also serves as a single point of contact for your child and her primary care provider. Contact the spine program manager at 404-785-7575.

Yes, but not forever. While in the hospital, your child’s care team will help your child roll over in her bed, sit up, stand and even walk. In the few weeks following surgery, the doctor will recommend your child avoid bending, lifting and twisting at first, but as she begins to feel better, you may be surprised by how many normal activities your child can resume. 

Your doctor will share a list of specific do’s and don’ts about when it will be safe for your child to resume driving, attend physical education classes and participate in certain sports; how much weight she can lift; and whether she can swim in lakes, oceans or rivers.

 

When it comes to your child’s spine surgery, experience and outcomes matter.

Children’s performs more spinal fusion surgeries than any other hospital dedicated to treating kids and teens, with some of the best spine surgery results in the nation. We are passionately dedicated to making sure your child has the best possible outcomes.

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This content is general information and is not specific medical advice. Always consult with a doctor or healthcare provider if you have any questions or concerns about the health of a child. In case of an urgent concern or emergency, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency department right away. Some physicians and affiliated healthcare professionals on the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta team are independent providers and are not our employees.

*Pediatric Health Information System (2019), as prepared by the Children’s Hospital Association. This report compares clinical data annually for more than 52 pediatric hospitals in the U.S.