Neurosurgery One Blog

Eating for Better Recovery from Spine Surgery

Posted by NeurosurgeryOne on Dec 3, 2019 8:15:00 AM

iStock-988833264-1Spine surgery outcomes obviously rely greatly on the quality and experience of your Denver neurosurgeon and the care provided while you’re in the hospital. But many patients are surprised to learn that they can play a significant role in the rate of their recovery, too. One factor that affects how your body responds during and after surgery is your nutrition.

“You prepare for a marathon,” says Kelly Boals, BSN, NeurosurgeryOne’s Spine Nurse Navigator. “If you’re getting ready to go into spine surgery, you want to prepare your body just like for a marathon.”

Spine surgery may not be exactly like a marathon, but it’s definitely no walk in the park. The procedure itself puts a great deal of stress on the body. That’s why a focus on nutrition is a key component of a new program at NeurosurgeryOne and Littleton Adventist Hospital called ERAS, which stands for Enhanced Recovery After Surgery. ERAS, which also offers a unique pain medication protocol and extensive patient education, is offered to all NeurosurgeryOne cervical and lumbar spine surgery patients at Littleton Adventist Hospital.

Boals says that during the education class, she talks about three important elements of nutrition that help with recovery:

  • Carb loading: Each ERAS patient is given three bottles of Ensure Clear nutrition drink during their pre-surgery education class. Boals says that your body has a stress response during surgery that can cause your albumin (a protein made by your liver) and your blood sugar to drop and to increase your insulin resistance, which can lead to post-surgical complications.
Studies have shown giving a carbohydrate drink the day before surgery and the morning of surgery helps with insulin control after surgery.

“It’s a complex carb that slowly releases into your body, so you’re still getting nutrition during your surgical day.” Ensure also has protein and omega-3 fatty acids that help your immune system after spine surgery. 

  • Getting your gut moving. Patients are given both sugar-free gum and candy. “During surgery, your whole GI [gastrointestinal] system is slowed down, which can lead to post-surgical constipation—that’s also exacerbated by narcotics,” Boals explains.

During recovery after spine surgery, patients are instructed to chew the gum or suck on the candy to get their salivary glands working. That tricks your body and helps wake up your gut to get your GI system moving again.

  • Packing in protein. Protein helps with healing by repairing your body tissues and helping fight infection, Boals says. ERAS spine surgery patients are instructed to increase their lean protein intake the week before surgery and in the weeks after surgery until their wound is healed. Spine surgery patients are encouraged to focus on healthy proteins, such as chicken breasts, lean cuts of beef and pork, eggs, low-fat dairy, tofu, and beans.

To learn more about ERAS for quicker spine surgery recovery or register for a Spine Class, call NeurosurgeryOne Spine Nurse Navigator Kelly Boals, RN, BSN, at 303-925-4915.


Topics: Spine Surgery: Nutrition Helps Recovery