Understanding the Risks of Spine Surgery

Back pain is a common problem for many individuals, and for some, surgery may be the recommended solution. While spine surgery can help alleviate pain, it’s important to understand that it comes with risks. In this article, we’ll explore the potential complications of spine surgery and how to reduce the risks.

Why Might Someone Need Spinal surgery?

Spine surgery is usually recommended when other treatments, such as physical therapy or medication, have failed to relieve symptoms caused by conditions such as herniated discs, spinal stenosis, or scoliosis. The aim of the surgery is to relieve pressure on the spinal cord or nerves, improve mobility, and reduce pain.

Potential Risks and Complications of Spine Surgery

All surgical procedures come with risks, and spine surgery is no exception. Some of the potential complications associated with spine surgery include:

  1. Infection: Anytime the skin is broken, there is a risk of infection. Spine surgery is no exception, and infections can be difficult to treat, especially if the surgery involves implantation of hardware.
  2. Bleeding: There is a risk of bleeding during and after the surgery, which can lead to complications such as nerve damage or stroke.
  3. Nerve damage: During spine surgery, there is a risk of damaging nearby nerves, which can cause weakness or paralysis in the arms or legs. The risk of nerve damage is higher for surgeries that involve the cervical spine.
  4. Blood clots: Blood clots can form after surgery, which can be life-threatening if they travel to the lungs or brain.
  5. Hardware failure: If hardware such as screws or plates are used to stabilise the spine, there is a risk that they can break or become dislodged.
  6. Fusion failure: In some cases, the fusion of the vertebrae doesn’t take place, which can cause the spine to be unstable and lead to further surgeries.
  7. Pain: While spine surgery is designed to alleviate pain, it can also cause pain in some cases.
  8. Allergic Reactions to Anesthesia: Anesthesia is used during spine surgery to keep the patient asleep and pain-free. However, some individuals may have an allergic reaction to the anaesthesia, which can be life-threatening.

How can you reduce the risks of spine surgery?

Fortunately, there are steps you can take to reduce the risks associated with spine surgery. These include:

  1. Choose a qualified spine surgeon: Make sure you choose a qualified and experienced spine surgeon who has a good track record of successful surgeries. Ask for referrals from your primary care physician, and do some research online to find reviews of local spine surgeons.
  2. Prepare for surgery: Follow your surgeon’s instructions for preparing for surgery, such as stopping certain medications or adjusting your diet.
  3. Quit smoking: If you smoke, quit before surgery, as smoking can increase the risk of complications such as infection or poor wound healing.
  4. Manage your weight: If you’re overweight, losing weight before surgery can reduce the risk of complications such as infection or blood clots.
  5. Follow post-surgery instructions: After surgery, follow your surgeon’s instructions for post-operative care. This may include limiting physical activity or attending physical therapy sessions.

Spine surgery can be an effective way to relieve chronic back pain and improve your quality of life. However, it’s important to understand that it comes with risks. By choosing a skilled and experienced spine surgeon and taking care of your overall health, you can help reduce the risk of complications. If you’re considering spine surgery, be sure to discuss the potential risks and benefits with your surgeon and ask any questions that you may have.