Chiari Decompression 101: Medication & Tips To Keep Track Of Them All

If you are scheduled for Chiari decompression surgery, there's no doubt you are concerned about how you will handle the recovery. This is a major surgery to go through, and it will take at least one full month for you to feel close to normal, but it could take much longer. Fortunately, there are medications that may help you during your recovery. Here's what you need to know.

Medication You'll Likely Be Prescribed

Here are certain medications that are often prescribed for people when they undergo Chiari decompression surgery:

  • Pain medication—obviously, you can expect a prescription for pain medication to be taken when you have severe pain. Over-the-counter pain medication can be used when your pain is lower or at a more moderate level.
  • Muscle relaxer—since the surgical incision will go through the neck muscles, you will likely be prescribed a muscle relaxer such as Valium. A muscle relaxer will help keep the neck muscles from going into spasms after the surgery. This is important because the muscles will be able to heal faster if they are not having spasms.
  • Anti-nausea—another medication that is very commonly prescribed following Chiari decompression surgery is to prevent nausea and vomiting. The reason for this is that the area of the brain that controls nausea and vomiting is in the medulla oblongata, which is a part of the brain stem. Obviously, it is in the same immediate area of the surgical site. Anti-nausea medication is crucial because a valsalva maneuver could put intracranial pressure on the incision site, which could make your pain worse. And, vomiting could prevent you from being able to keep down the pain medication and muscle relaxers that you will need to help you through recovery.
  • Regular medication—your medical and surgical teams will need to assess your regular medication to determine whether or not you'll be able to continue taking them during your hospital stay and through your recovery.

Keeping Track of All the Medication

With all the post-op medication and any medication you may have already been taking, it may feel overwhelming to juggle it all, especially since some of the medication may make you feel a bit loopy. Here are a few tips:

  • If you have poor vision which makes it difficult to read small print on the labels of the prescription bottles, use a permanent marker to write the name of the medication in a size large enough for you to easily read. Do not label the caps of the bottles because the caps may accidentally get switched around at some point.
  • It's a good idea to list the medication in columns on a piece of paper with room underneath each column to write down the date and time for each dose as you take them. For example, if you have four different medications that need to be taken at bedtime, list those four medications together in one column.
  • If you find that you need your pain medication sooner than the prescription allows you to take the next dose, place a star or a hashtag beside the annotation of the next dosage for that medication, along with a circled number to signify the pain level you were feeling at the time you were able to take the next dose. Show this to person in charge of your pain management so he or she is aware of your situation.

If you continue to have pain, neck spasms, and/or nausea after your prescriptions have run out, and there are no more refills available, take notes to keep track of your symptoms, including frequency and levels, and call your pain management team and/or your neurosurgeon. See this page for more information.

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