Spine Surgery Complications

spine surgery complications

Spine Surgery Complications

While spine surgery is commonly performed in the United States, it is important to understand that it is not a cure for all spinal conditions. Spine surgery is the most aggressive and invasive treatment available for spine-related issues, and while it can provide significant relief of symptoms, it will not always return patients to their pre-injury or pre-condition state.

It is important to understand that spine surgery is typically recommended as a last resort option, after other non-surgical treatments have been attempted and failed. In some cases, spine surgery may be necessary to prevent further damage or worsening of a condition, such as in cases of spinal cord compression or severe instability.

However, even in cases where spine surgery successfully achieves its intended goals, such as reducing pain and improving function, it is important for patients to understand that their anatomy may be permanently altered. This means that while they may experience significant relief of symptoms, they also may not return to their pre-injury or pre-condition state. 

Potential Risks from Spine Surgery

Spine surgery is a complex and delicate surgical procedure that involves a range of potential complications. The complications associated with spine surgery can vary depending on the type of surgery being performed, the patient’s medical history, and the skill of the surgeon.  Potential complications include:

  • Infection: Infection is a potential complication of any surgical procedure. Patients who develop an infection after surgery may experience fever, chills, and pain at the surgical site.
  • Nerve damage: During the procedure, the surgeon must navigate around nerves in the spine. Damage to these nerves can result in numbness, weakness, or even paralysis.
  • Bleeding: Any surgical procedure carries the risk of excessive bleeding, which can lead to complications such as blood clots or anemia.
  • Recurrent herniation: In some cases, a herniated disc may recur after surgery, requiring additional procedures.
  • Spinal fluid leak: The procedure involves removing a portion of the disc, which can result in a spinal fluid leak. This can cause headaches, nausea, and other complications.
  • Epidural fibrosis: Epidural fibrosis is the formation of scar tissue around the nerve root or spinal cord. This scar tissue can compress the nerve root or spinal cord, leading to symptoms such as pain, weakness, and numbness.
  • Blood clots: Blood clots can form after surgery, which can lead to complications such as deep vein thrombosis or pulmonary embolism.
  • Nerve damage: The procedure involves manipulating the nerves in the spine, which can result in nerve damage. This can cause numbness, weakness, or even paralysis.
  • Chronic pain: Some patients may experience chronic pain after lumbar fusion surgery, which can be difficult to manage.
  • Failure to fuse: In some cases, the vertebrae may not fuse together properly, which can result in ongoing pain and the need for additional surgery.
  • Anesthesia related complications which include death

Patients should carefully consider the potential risks and benefits of spine surgery before deciding to undergo the procedure. It is also important for patients to understand that spine surgery is not a guarantee of success. While it can be highly effective for some patients, it is not guaranteed to completely eliminate symptoms or improve function. In some cases, additional surgery or other treatments may be necessary.

The success rates for spine surgery can vary depending on the specific condition being treated and the individual patient. When it comes to the success rates for nerve pain (pain traveling down the leg) versus low back pain, there are a few important factors to consider.

For nerve pain, such as pain caused by a pinched nerve or spinal stenosis, surgery can be highly effective in relieving symptoms – initially. One significant limitation of spine surgery is that disc cracks can not be surgically sewn, so a disc herniation successfully treated surgically may experience a re-herniation in the future and cause nerve symptoms to return.

Success Rates & Alternative Options

Success rates for spine surgery in treating low back pain without nerve involvement are generally lower. This is because low back pain can have a variety of underlying causes, and as a result, spine surgery may not always be effective in relieving low back pain.

It is important to note that success rates for spine surgery are not universal and can vary based on a variety of factors including patient age, overall health, and the severity of the condition being treated. Additionally, success rates can be influenced by the type of surgery performed and the surgeon’s experience. As with any medical procedure, it is important to carefully weigh the potential risks and benefits of spine surgery before deciding. Also, be certain to consider appropriate non-surgical options first.

Discseel is a new, non-surgical spine procedure that injects the biologic fibrin into the disc annulus cracks – the ones that cannot be surgically sewn. Sealing these cracks with fibrin allows the disc to heal without being exposed to all of the possible complications from an operation. Learn more about Discseel at RegenerativeSpineAndJoint.com and call (614) 999-9899 to schedule a consultation.

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I’m Boris Terebuh MD, Ohio’s first and most experienced Discseel® provider. I am also the Founder & Medical Director of the Regenerative Spine & Joint Center