What is neurosurgery?
Neurosurgery is the branch of medicine that focuses on the treatment of conditions affecting the spine (herniated discs, spinal fractures, spinal and spinal cord tumours, degenerative scoliosis) and nervous system (brain tumours, vascular malformations and cerebrospinal fluid disorders).
Patients are usually referred to a neurosurgeon for a specialist opinion by their primary care physician. Patients can also directly contact a neurosurgeon to request a consultation. Anyone can see a Swiss Medical Network neurosurgeon for an initial neurosurgical assessment. All types of insurance coverage are accepted. Some patients who have already undergone surgery for a spinal condition may need a consultation with a neurosurgeon to plan ‘salvage’ surgery; this is surgery to realign the spine and correct balance, which may have been altered by the previous procedures.
What are the symptoms?
Patients will experience different symptoms depending on their condition. They may suffer from back or neck pain and/or pain and weakness in their arms and legs. Some brain disorders can cause headaches and difficulty speaking, writing or walking.
What are the treatment options?
The neurosurgeon will explore all treatment options during the initial consultation. Apart from those with serious neurological damage, the vast majority of patients can benefit from pharmacological treatment (pain and anti-inflammatory medications), physical medicine (physiotherapy, manipulations, acupuncture, massages) or pain management treatment with infiltrations (directly administering medication near the areas of the body in pain). If these measures – known as conservative treatments – do not help the pain, surgical treatment may be indicated and will be discussed in detail with the patient and their family.
What are the risks?
The risks of a surgical treatment depend on the type of procedure and the surgical site. Due to the innovative technology now available in our clinics, we are able to offer minimally invasive surgical techniques to patients with spinal conditions, reducing their postoperative pain and hospital stay as well as enabling a full recovery as quickly as possible.
For some conditions, including herniated discs in the lumbar and cervical spine regions, as well as lumbar decompression surgery involving the vertebrae, patients will have their operation in a day hospital and then stay overnight. Patients may need to be admitted for 3 to 7 days for other conditions requiring surgery.
Following surgery, a multidisciplinary team, including the surgeon, physiotherapist and nursing team, will support the patient through their recovery journey. The key to a successful neurosurgical treatment lies in being able to offer treatments that are tailored to the needs of each patient and based on scientific evidence. With new minimally invasive surgical techniques and postoperative protocol for a fast recovery, patients are often able to walk the same evening of their operation or at the latest the following day, allowing them to return home quickly and safely. It usually takes between 3 and 6 weeks to recover from the operation, depending on the type of surgery performed. In some cases, especially after ‘salvage’ surgery on the spine, patients may benefit from receiving care at a rehabilitation facility (between 7 and 14 days) to promote a full recovery as quickly as possible.
How is Swiss Medical Network different?
Several factors contribute to successful neurosurgery at Swiss Medical Network clinics:
- Renowned neurosurgeons and a specialist care team
- Advanced intraoperative technology (3D fluoroscopy, neuronavigation systems, robotic exoscope – the first in Switzerland, new generation operating table)*
- Attentive and respectful care
- Thorough and comprehensive information on the benefits and risks of surgery
*The availability of certain operating techniques and the equipment used may vary depending on the clinic and surgeon. Please speak to your surgeon for more information.
When should I see a neurosurgeon?
We recommend that you see a neurosurgeon if you are referred by your primary care physician or if you are experiencing debilitating symptoms, such as back or neck pain, pain or weakness in your arms and legs, headaches or difficulty speaking, writing or walking. If these symptoms start suddenly or are particularly severe, or if you are concerned, please contact the emergency services immediately.
How long will I stay in hospital?
Depending on the surgery performed, you will either have your operation in a day hospital and stay overnight or you will be admitted for 3 to 7 days if you require major surgery.
How long will it take to recover?
It usually takes between 3 and 6 weeks to recover from the operation, depending on the type of surgery performed.
Should I arrange to stay at a rehabilitation centre after my procedure?
This depends on your surgery. During your stay, your surgeon will advise you on your rehabilitation plan, whether this is receiving rehabilitation care at a specialist centre or as an outpatient. Our care team will make sure that you receive the most appropriate rehabilitation solutions tailored to your needs.
When do I need to start rehabilitation?
Rehabilitation after neurosurgery starts the same day as the procedure (for patients who have a minimally invasive technique), or at the latest the following day. A dedicated physiotherapy team will monitor you throughout your stay. In agreement with your surgeon, they will make sure that you receive the most appropriate rehabilitation plan tailored to your needs.
What activities are possible during my recovery, and how can I get back to normal life?
For the majority of spinal operations, walking is the best activity that you can do for the first 6 weeks following your surgery. You must also make sure that you follow the guidelines from your surgeon during these first 6 weeks. For example, you must avoid twisting or bending your back as well as lifting, pushing or pulling objects that weigh more than 2.5 kg.
You must inform your employer that you will not be able to work for approximately 6 to 12 weeks. However, you can usually return to work sooner.
You should be able to resume sexual activity as soon as you feel ready. You will probably notice that certain positions are more comfortable than others. Be careful and use your common sense: stop if you are in pain.
When will I be able to drive again?
Driving is possible when you feel ready, as long as you have been directed to do so by your surgeon and you are not taking any opioid analgesics (morphine-based medications). You can usually drive 2 to 3 weeks after lumbar decompression and discectomy surgery, and 4 to 6 weeks after spinal fusion surgery. Start with short journeys and get out of your car every 30 to 45 minutes to stretch your legs and to make sure that you are in a comfortable driving position. Remember that opioid analgesics will cause slower reaction times and decision times.