I don’t have a question so much as a problem to share that might help others. My wife had spine surgery to fuse five vertebrae together. We knew that’s a lot before heading into the procedure and we knew there could be complications because of it. What we didn’t realize was how difficult the move from hospital to home was going to be. Anyone thinking about having this kind of surgery should not go home until both the patient and caregiver are fully prepared.

We agree though we aren’t sure what kind of preparation you have in mind. Medical complications following spinal surgery do account for a rather high rate of unplanned readmissions to the hospital. This can be very confusing to the patient and upsetting to the family.

A smooth transition from hospital to home does require careful planning and management involving both the hospital staff and family members. Almost 25 per cent of all early readmissions to the hospital after spinal surgery can be traced back to medical complications. This could include a previous history of cancer, heart disease, and obesity. Or it could be the development of blood clots, pneumonia, or infection.

Any of these problems that develop (or get worse) as a result of surgery can cause delays in discharge and even a return to the hospital shortly after discharge. A closer analysis of all the factors present in patients who do go back to the hospital might reveal some helpful clues. For example, there may be certain aspects of the surgical procedure that is contributing to the high rate of infection. Or patient factors such as general health, pre-existing conditions (heart disease, cancer) and obesity may make a difference.

In addition to screening patients more carefully before surgery, closer postoperative monitoring may be a useful way to reduce readmissions. Studies show that medical complications after surgery are a big factor. And this may be one cause hospital staff can change with coordinated efforts and planning. If you have specific ideas that might help your local group, a letter or phone call with your suggestoins might be welcome.