Herniated Disc Surgery: How to Prepare

Herniated disc surgery is often used to decompress a nerve pinched by a degenerated or pushed out disc. Being well prepared for herniated disc surgery can help you feel more relaxed about the procedure and help you maximize your chances of success.

Surgery for a herniated disc is often called a discectomy. Some people with a herniated disc benefit from procedures including discectomy and spinal fusion, where the bones of your spine are fused together to limit movement (and pain) for that particular spinal segment. Preparation for discectomy and fusion surgery may be similar.


Herniated disc surgery is usually performed in a hospital or specialized surgery center. If you have a serious medical condition that requires monitoring, you may need to go to the hospital.

Also, if your surgery is performed on multiple discs in your spine and therefore is more risky, your surgeon may perform the surgery in a hospital. If so, you can expect to spend a night in the hospital after surgery before going home.

For single-grade and uncomplicated disc problems, your surgery may be performed in a specialized outpatient surgery center. You can go home a few hours after surgery.

Your out-of-pocket costs may vary depending on whether your surgery is in a hospital or a surgical center. Be sure to contact your surgeon’s office and your insurance company to find out what’s expected of you from a financial standpoint.

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what to wear

On the day of surgery, be sure to wear comfortable clothing so you can arrive at the surgery center or hospital. Your surgeon may have you change into a hospital gown, and managing extra clothing after your surgery can be difficult.

If you know you will be in the hospital overnight, you may wish to bring your own gown and slippers, a change of underwear, and perhaps a change of clothes.


On the day of your surgery, most healthcare providers ask you not to eat any food or drink. This is to ensure that you can tolerate the anesthesia without problems. (While under general anesthesia, food or drink in the stomach may reflux.)

Your surgeon will tell you when to stop eating and drinking before disc surgery. In most cases, you can eat a meal the night before surgery, and then wake up the day of surgery without eating or drinking.

If you need to take medicine, you may be allowed a sip of water to help swallow the tablet. Be sure to speak with your surgeon or their staff to make sure you know exactly what you are and what is not allowed to eat when preparing for herniated disc surgery.

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Why can’t you eat or drink before surgery?


Before herniated disc surgery, you may have been taking prescription medication. Your healthcare provider will tell you when to stop taking certain medications and when you can resume taking your prescription medications.

You may need to carry medicines with you for surgery. Nursing staff will guide you on whether to keep your medicines for you during surgery and help you get back on your medicines after surgery.

Notify your surgeon if you are taking vitamin or herbal supplements. Some of these over-the-counter supplements may negatively react to medications used during or after surgery, and you may need to temporarily stop using them prior to herniated disc surgery.

If you are not sure when or if you should stop taking a drug or supplement, talk with your healthcare provider.

what to bring to surgery

When preparing for herniated disc surgery, you should make a list of items to bring to the hospital or surgery center. These may include:

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  • identify
  • Insurance Card
  • Medications marked with your name and date of birth
  • Pay co-pays for services when necessary
  • Books or newspapers (you may be asked to wait before surgery)
  • A trusted friend or family member who can act as your advocate during and after surgery

There are some things you shouldn’t take with you to surgery. These may include:

  • jewelry
  • Expensive electronic devices such as cell phones or tablets

While your personal belongings will be properly stored during your surgery, you should avoid bringing valuables to the hospital.

VigorTip words

Surgery for a herniated disc can be scary, but decompressing the nerve can reduce pain and improve your functional mobility. By taking the time to prepare your medications, gather and organize your belongings, and prepare for your surgery, you can be confident that you have done everything possible to understand your procedure and what is expected of you when you have surgery.

By taking the time to prepare your medications, gather and organize your belongings, and make small but important lifestyle changes, you can maximize your chances of success and fully return to your previous level of activity.