Spinal fusion surgery is a common procedure to treat back pain not responding to conservative treatments for back pain such as the use of over-the-counter and prescription meds and physical therapy. While fusion surgery is being performed more often in United States each year, there’s research suggesting post-traumatic stress disorder may be linked to the procedure.
Increased Instances of PTSD
Results of a recent study by an Oregon university found that nearly 1 in 5 spinal fusion patients showed some signs of PTSD. Episodes of severe emotional stress may stem from unexpected issues during the recovery period, unsatisfactory results, or from going through the surgery itself. Often associated with military personnel, PTSD may result in the following symptoms:
- Bouts of intense and sometimes irrational fear
- Substantial memory lapses, especially related to the event
- Loss of interest in previously enjoyable activities
- Increased social isolation
- Restricted range of feeling
- Suicidal tendencies
Patients getting ready to undergo spinal fusion surgery have likely been living with some degree of pain for a while before reaching a point where surgery is discussed, which may mean some patients are more prone to emotional stress than others. Preventive pre-surgery therapy may help some patients who are susceptible to depression and anxiety. During sessions, patients are typically taught to develop a better understanding of what they may experience before, during, and after surgery.
Treating Post-Surgery PTSD
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle prior to surgery can help reduce the risk of PTSD. Being emotionally prepared for the operation is equally important. This can start by scheduling a separate appointment prior to surgery to discuss concerns, ask additional questions, and determine if it’s really the best, or only, option still available. Treatment for PTSD may also include:
- Developing effective coping mechanisms
- Seeking support from friends and family members
- Exposure therapy where you talk about what caused the trauma
In many cases, fusion surgery isn’t going to eliminate all instances of pain. Instead, the goal is often to reach a point where discomfort is manageable. Researchers stress the need for patients to have realistic expectations and realize the possible physical and emotional impact of the procedure.
For more information about spinal fusion surgery or other surgical options for back pain, including decompression spine surgery and non-fusion back surgeries, reach out to The Spine Institute. Our experienced team of spine surgeons Los Angeles patients trust can review your particular case, diagnosis the cause of your pain, and review possible treatment options. To schedule an in-person consultation, call (310) 828-7757 today.