More than 400,000 spinal fusions are performed annually in the United States, which doesn’t even include other procedures like the growing number of minimally invasive options and fusion alternatives such as Mobi-C artificial disc replacement. Though the majority of these spine surgeries have successful outcomes, there are also some fairly common potential complications.
1. Problems with Anesthesia
Though somewhat rare, some patients experience anesthesia complications due to either underlying medical issues or reactions with other medications. Prior to surgery, patients are usually told to stop smoking, avoid alcohol, and disclose all medications being taken, including over-the-counter meds and herbal supplements.
2. Deep Vein Blood Clots
Trauma to the blood vessels during spine surgery may contribute to deep venous thrombosis, a type of blood clot that forms in the leg. A clot deep within the veins may result in swelling and potentially life-threatening complications. Risks can be minimized with medication and encouraging patients to move as much as possible.
3. Breathing Difficulties
The initial bed rest following spine surgery can sometimes cause fluid to build up in the lungs. Problems are more common among patients with either a diminished lung capacity or existing respiratory conditions. Sitting up and breathing deeply can help prevent these types of issues.
Infections following spine surgeries can be at the incision site or around the operation site within the spine, especially if you’ve had screws and other hardware inserted. Antibiotics can reduce the risk of infection, and careful monitoring can catch signs of an infection early.
5. Spinal Cord Injuries
Any spine surgery is going to involve the risk of injury to the spinal cord itself. Nerves covering the spinal cord are especially susceptible to injury during more complex procedures or when surgery is needed at multiple levels. Damage may result in radiating pain or paralysis.
Potential risks vary based on the specific procedure. With a lumbar laminectomy surgery, for instance, there is a 1 in 1,000 chance of nerve root damage. With fusion surgery, there’s always the risk of hardware malfunctions and the fusion itself not forming. Before any surgery, take time to ask questions to get a good idea of what possible complications may be involved.
Though the risk for complications during spinal surgery exists, these types of procedures are generally safe. However, it’s important the most trusted surgeons perform them. If you think you might need spine surgery, contact Dr. Hyun Bae at The Spine Institute at 310-828-7757. Along with his team of expert surgeons, Dr. Bae can determine what type of procedure you need to start living a pain-free life.