Spine Center at Mercy - Baltimore

Frequently Asked Questions – The Maryland Spine Center

Spine FAQs
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What is the focus of The Maryland Spine Center?

The focus of our practice is the diagnosis and definitive treatment of major spinal deformities, tumors, injuries and other major spine disorders.

When are appointments available?

Consultation clinics are available Monday through Friday at several convenient locations, including Mercy Medical Center and Mercy Personal Physicians in Glen Burnie, Lutherville, Overlea, and Reisterstown.

Do you accept patients without a referral?

We prefer physician referrals, but will accept patient-initiated consultations. To refer a patient or schedule an appointment, contact us at 410-539-3434.

Do you offer disability evaluations?

We do not offer disability determination evaluations; however, we can refer you to physicians who do offer these evaluations.

Does The Spine Center offer second opinions?

We do offer second opinions. Please bring all your medical records from your previous physicians; all X-ray, MRI, myelogram, or CT films; and a list of all medications you are taking (names, dosages, frequency).

What insurance plans and payments does The Spine Center accept?

The Maryland Spine Center accepts Blue Shield, most commercial insurance plans, Medicare A & B, and many HMO plans. Please contact our office to confirm your insurance information. Patients without acceptable coverage are asked to pay a reasonable fee at the time of the consultation. Patients covered under Workman’s Compensation must have full claim information and prior authorization from the workman’s compensation carrier.

How do I get to The Maryland Spine Center?

The Maryland Spine Center is located off the Main Lobby of McAuley Plaza. When coming to our office, we recommend that you park in the McAuley Garage.

What should I bring to my initial consultation?

Please bring a letter or recent notes from the referring physician. Also, please obtain and bring any relevant X-ray, MRI, myelogram, or CT films. If you belong to an HMO, it is essential that you bring prior authorization for spine x-rays. Failure to do this will often make a second consultation necessary simply to get the correct X-rays.

What can I expect during my initial consultation?

When you check into the outpatient area, a clinical staff member will assist you with registration. You will be given a spine questionnaire to complete to summarize your current spine problem and general health. The spine physician will review your questionnaire, doctor’s referral letter or notes, and key X-rays. If it appears you will need new X-rays, the physician will order them so X-rays can be obtained and processed before your examination. Since many of our patients are from out of town, the physician will try to accomplish as much as possible during each consultation to save unnecessary repeat visits.

The physician’s goal during the initial consultation is to determine the cause of your problem and outline treatment alternatives. Sometimes an additional set of X-rays is needed during a consultation to confirm physical exam findings or explore a possible treatment alternative. The initial consultation, including record review, history, physical exam, film analysis, and patient counseling, generally takes one hour. 

More complicated cases may require additional studies or diagnostic procedures after which the patient returns for a second consultation. Once the physician understands the source of a patient’s problems, the physician studies alternative treatments and, in collaboration with the patient, selects the alternative that best accomplishes the patient’s objectives with the least amount of surgery and risk. The physician then spends as much time as necessary to educate the patient about the condition and treatment program selected, including its probability of success, risks, and expected results.

If surgery is needed, how and when is it scheduled?

Should the patient and surgeon select a surgical treatment, the patient next meets with the Clinical Coordinator to choose a surgery date. The Coordinator will discuss any needed pre-operative medical evaluations, pre-operative testing, and hospital and hotel accommodations.

Mercy Medical Center has private room accommodations. The Coordinator will explain the hospital admission procedure and what to expect before and after surgery at the end of the visit or in subsequent telephone conversations.

What should I expect on the day of surgery?

Most patients will arrive early on the morning of surgery as all major spinal cases are scheduled as first cases. You will report to the Surgical Receiving area located on the second floor. After you are prepared for surgery, you will meet the surgical nurses and anesthesiologist who will be caring for you. Shortly before you enter the operating room, your surgeon will visit you and briefly discuss the surgery to be performed. You will be asked to sign the hospital consent form at that time.

How long will I be in the hospital?

Your procedure, condition and surgeon’s discretion will determine if you are required to stay overnight in the hospital. Many patients undergoing cervical disc replacement, cervical fusion or lumbar decompression procedures go home the day of surgery. More extensive surgeries and patients with medical challenges often require a hospital stay. Lumbar fusion procedures require a hospital stay of 1-3 nights. A rehabilitation stay after hospital discharge is very beneficial for patients lacking help at home, those undergoing larger deformity correction procedures and those who would benefit from more focused daily physical therapy and nursing care.

Patients who do spend the night in the hospital will be appointed a private room and will be cared for by a nursing team. Meals are provided and one guest may spend the night. A private session with a physical therapist and occupational therapist will provide postoperative education. Prior to discharge, you will be provided with any new prescriptions that you will need and may be required to get an X-ray.  Most patients are discharged home by lunchtime.

What should I expect after surgery?

You may experience some temporary new pain and a reduced range of motion following your surgery. Those undergoing neck surgery may experience some swallowing difficulty and hoarseness. Your surgeon and PAs will prescribe medication as needed to help reduce these symptoms. Following restrictions and a positive attitude will greatly aid in your recovery.

Manipulation of the nerves during the surgery can lead to increased irritation of the nerves in a small percentage of patients. These new nerve issues usually resolve within several weeks.

Patients with difficulty urinating after surgery may require catheterization.  These patients may be sent home with the catheter remaining in place for up to 5-7 days. If this occurs, you will be provided instructions and supplies for the care of the catheter and a follow-up plan for its appropriate removal by a urologist.

In addition, you may experience muscular tension across the neck and back. This is common and may last for a few weeks. Your muscle relaxant prescription should help to alleviate some of this tension.

What should my family expect after my surgery?

You will be brought to the Post Anesthesia Care Unit (PACU) immediately following your surgery. There, a nurse will monitor your vital signs while you wake up from anesthesia and treat any side effects of the anesthesia with appropriate medications. Patients undergoing neck surgery may wake up with a cervical collar.

Family members may visit you in the PACU for 15 minutes every hour on the hour, after your nurse deems it appropriate (generally 30 – 60 minutes following the operation). Most patients spend one to two hours in the PACU before going up to a private room on the hospital floor or are discharged home.

Will I have pain after my surgery?

It is reasonable to expect pain after your surgery. This is mainly due to the incision and surgical dissection needed to visualize your spine. In addition, your nerves may become more irritated during surgery. Pain is expected to diminish in the weeks to months following surgery. Our Spine Team will help to manage your pain with various pain medications, muscle relaxers, ice, and ergonomic techniques. 

How is post-operative pain controlled?

Your surgeon, or the PAs, may prescribe opiates/narcotics to help manage post-surgical pain. The strength of medication prescribed and the schedule for administration is customized to each patient based on the size of their surgery, their prior experience with specific medications and our clinical judgement.

The regimen of analgesics (narcotics, muscle relaxers and nerve medications) is adjusted to maintain the proper balance of sufficient pain control with a minimum of side-effects and prompt weaning. Those on narcotics prior to surgery tend to need stronger pain medications and for a longer period after surgery. 

Anterior cervical procedures and lumbar decompressions are usually not very painful, and most patients typically wean from narcotic pain medications within 7-10 days. Some patients require no more than Tylenol. The Spine Center will only prescribe opioid pain medication for 60 days following cervical and lumbar decompression procedures. For lumbar fusion surgeries, the Spine Center will prescribe opioid pain medication for 90 days following the procedure. We work with you during this period to help you wean off any narcotics prescribed. 

Please refer to the Opioid Agreement that you received and signed prior to surgery for any other questions related to The Maryland Spine Center’s policy on opioid narcotic medication.

How long will it take my preoperative pain/symptoms to subside?

Depending on the type of surgery and nature of your duties, it may take several weeks to months following your surgery for your preoperative symptoms to resolve. If the degree of compression was severe, or had been present for a long time, some symptoms may never fully resolve.

How long will my recovery take?

Each patient recovers at their own rate following any surgery. Your surgeon  and their PA team will guide your recovery at your postoperative visits and over the phone, should any concerns arise. Depending on the nature of your duties, most of our patients are able to return to work in 1-3 months. Your restrictions will be reviewed at each postoperative visit. Patients undergoing cervical procedures and lumbar decompressions will recover on the faster side of this time table and those undergoing lumbar fusions will take longer.

Do I have stitches that need to come out?

Your incision is sewn only under the skin. There are no staples or sutures to be removed.

What do I do if my incision leaks?

Some wound drainage can be normal. If wound drainage occurs, please apply sterile gauze. We ask everyone in this situation to call the office number and speak  to a PA. Also, please do not apply any lotions, creams, ointments or medications to your incision for one month postoperative. Only the gauze dressing need be applied.

Will I have a drain?

Drains are placed at the time of surgery at the discretion of your surgeon.  If you awaken with one, we will explain both the timing and procedure for its removal with you.

In some cases, patients go home with a drain. If this occurs, you will receive individualized education and personal directions on its removal at home.  Most patients can pull it themselves safely with this education. Supplies will be provided.

Will I have difficulty swallowing or eating food after my surgery?

It is not uncommon for patients who have an ACDF or disc replacement procedure to experience some degree of difficulty swallowing. It is advisable to start with liquids and soft foods immediately following your surgery, and then progress to more solid foods as your recovery progresses.

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Mercy FAQs
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How do I get to the Mercy Medical Center campus in Baltimore?

Mercy Medical Center’s Downtown campus is comprised of three main buildings. Driving directions and parking information are available online:

The Main Hospital (The Bunting Center) is located at 345 St. Paul Place in Baltimore, Maryland.

McAuley Plaza (the former hospital) is located at 301 St. Paul Place in Baltimore.

The Weinberg Center at Mercy is located at 227 St. Paul Place in Baltimore.

What are the parking rates?

Mercy offers three convenient parking garages, interconnected to the Hospital and its main buildings.

Self-park fees at Mercy’s garages for validated patient and visitor tickets:

  • First 30 minutes: Free
  • 30 minutes - 1½ hours: $ 5.00
  • 1½ - 5 hours: $ 7.00
  • Over 5 hours: $11.00

Valet parking is available for $10 at the main entrance of:

  • The Bunting Center (Main Hospital), located at 345 St. Paul Place
  • McAuley Plaza, located at 301 St. Paul Place
  • The Weinberg Center, located at 227 St. Paul Place
How do I locate information about a Mercy doctor or a doctor who specializes in my condition?

For information on physicians affiliated with Mercy, including specialty, office location and phone number, see Mercy’s Find a Doctor pages

How do I get to the Emergency Department at Mercy Medical Center?

See information on the Emergency Department for directions, parking and additional information.

I am scheduled to have surgery at Mercy Medical Center. What do I need to know in order to prepare?

Surgical patients should bring identification and their insurance card. Valuables should be left at home. Information specific to your surgery should be sent to you by your doctor’s office. If you have questions, you should contact your doctor’s office directly.

Can I access my health information online?

Yes - Mercy provides MyChart for outpatient and inpatient health information.

MyChart offers patients online access to your health care records and gives you the ability to manage your appointments, medications and more. 

If you are a current patient and would like to sign up for MyChart, you may:

  • Use the activation code on your visit summary from your doctor’s office or hospital visit
  • Request an activation code from your doctor’s office during a visit
  • Use the Sign Up Online option if you do not have an activation code

Once you have set up your account, you will have access to your safe and secure electronic medical record and the ability to manage your health information online – this includes reviewing test results, requesting prescription refills, tracking your medication and managing your appointments. 

If you need assistance with MyChart Mercy, please call 410-332-9690.


Can I pay my bill online?

Yes, most Mercy bills can be paid online using MyChart Mercy.

I have some questions about my medical bill. Where can I get more information?

For information including types of bills you may receive, payment options and general information regarding your medical bill please see our Understanding Your Medical Bill  guide. You also may call 888-661-3834.

Can I get my prescription filled at Mercy?

Outpatient pharmacy prescriptions can be filled at Walgreens Pharmacy, inside the Lobby of McAuley Plaza. It is open Monday-Saturday. You can reach Walgreens Pharmacy at Mercy by calling 410-625-2618 or you can have your prescription faxed to 410-625-6213.

What are visiting hours?

General visiting hours are between 11:00 am and 8:30 pm, however, hours vary by floor so please check with the nursing staff or our information desk staff at 410-332-9555. Generally children must be at least 12 years old to visit patients on the floors.

How can I get in touch with a patient?

To obtain information on a patient’s room location or to be transferred by phone to their room, call 410-332-9555.

Are there places to eat on the Mercy campus?

Eateries at Mercy

Corcoran Café in The Bunting Center, Main Lobby
Open 7 days a week, 6:30 am – 8:00 pm; 12:00 am – 2:00 am
Serving brick oven pizzas, calzones, strombolis, deli sandwiches and subs, soups, salads and more.

The Bistro in McAuley Tower, 6th Floor
Open Monday – Friday, 6:30 am – 3:00 pm
Serving entrees and sides, burgers, chicken, hot subs and fries as well as soups, salads, wraps, paninis and sushi.

The Coffee Kiosk in McAuley Plaza, Main Lobby
Open Monday – Friday, 7:00 am – 2:00 pm
Serving gourmet coffee, sandwiches, fruit cups, cold beverages, yogurts, desserts and snacks.

Baggot Street Cafe in The Weinberg Center, Main Lobby
Open Monday – Friday, 6:30 am - 2:00 pm
Serving Starbucks Coffee, sandwiches, salads, cold beverages, yogurts, desserts, soups and snacks.

Mercy is also neighbor to 5-star restaurants, quaint cafés, coffee shops and bistros offering a wide selection of dishes including local seafood specialties, international cuisine and traditional American favorites. Many of these restaurants are within a 10-minute walk from the hospital. 

Is Mercy a smoke free campus?

In an effort to create a healthier environment for our patients, staff and visitors, Mercy’s downtown campus is a smoke free campus effective May 1, 2014. 

The non-smoking policy includes cigarettes, cigars, pipes, and electronic nicotine delivery devices/e-cigarettes. 

The Mercy downtown campus includes:

  • All private offices
  • All public or private restrooms
  • All entrances into the Medical Center including Weinberg, McAuley and Bunting Center circles
  • The Bunting Center grassy knoll (North of the Bunting Center main entrance)
  • The Emergency Department deck
  • All Mercy parking garages and parking lots
Does Mercy offer financial assistance to patients?

Mercy offers patients financial assistance for those who are uninsured and ineligible for federal medical assistance. Payment plans are available and/or a patient can be put on a sliding scale which would allow a percentage of assistance depending on their eligibility under current guidelines. More information on Mercy's Financial Assistance Policy

How do I obtain a copy of my medical records or birth certificate?

To obtain a copy of your medical records, call Mercy's Medical Records Department at 410-332-9492. You also may be able to view your medical records through MyChart if you are registered through your Mercy physician.

For a copy of your birth certificate contact The Maryland State Division of Vital Records at 410-764-3038 or visit their website.

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