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What are the Risks of having Back Surgery?

There are various risks and complications with any surgery. Like any other surgery, the back surgery also carries a number of risks. Here, we discuss the risks of having back surgery.

What are the Risks of having Back Surgery?

Knowing the risks of having back surgery helps in making an informed decision. The complications can be extremely serious when the surgery is carried out near the spinal cord and the spine. The requirement for additional back surgery, pain, and impairment are some of the subsequent complexities. It is advisable to discuss the risks of having back surgery, with the treating doctor.

Some of the possible complications of back surgery are listed down but the identification of risks often needs a multidisciplinary approach and appropriate medical guidance.

Let us take a look at some of the possible risks of having back surgery:

  1. Complications with Anesthesia Administered During Back Surgery:

    Surgeries often require anesthesia to be given before surgery. It is done so that the patients do not feel the pain of the procedure. Local anesthesia is considered to be one of the simplest forms. It is done by injecting a medicine only around the area where the surgery will take place in order to numb the skin along with the surrounding tissues. When it comes to complex surgery, general anesthesia is the most common one. It is risky because, during the surgery, the patient is put to sleep completely. For this, medications are given intravenously. The respiration, oxygen level, and other vital signs are monitored continuously.

    The patient is kept unconscious during the entire procedure with medications, given intravenously. Anesthesia is used in most of the spinal surgeries, hence there is a risk of possible reaction to the drugs used. Complications can also arise due to various other medical problems. Hence, it is always advisable to discuss the complications with the anesthetists.

  2. Thrombophlebitis as a Risk of Having Back Surgery:

    When blood clots are formed inside the leg veins, it is known as deep venous thrombosis (DVT). This is one of the most common risks of having back surgery or other surgical procedures. According to some studies, the prevalence of postoperative venous thromboembolism after spine surgery is 25%.1 The patients who have not undergone any surgery recently can also face blood clots due to other reasons. It is generally formed inside the large veins of the calf, which continues to grow and even extends up to the veins of the thighs and the pelvis. The risk associated with the development of DVT is much higher when the surgery involves the pelvis or the lower extremities.

    Various reasons need to be understood when considering DVT as the risk of having back surgery.

    Firstly, the body tries to stop the bleeding, occurring due to the surgery. The mechanism of the body’s clotting is hyperactive, especially during this period.

    Secondly, normal tugging and pulling at times injures the blood vessels that are around the surgical site, which can also set off the clotting process.

    Lastly, the blood which does not move very well or sit in the veins is most likely to become stagnant. It begins to clot when the blood sits for too long in just one spot. The patients are worried about the blood clots because the clots that fill the deep veins of the legs restrict the usual flow of venous blood back to the heart from the legs. It is subjected to cause not only swelling but also tremendous pain in the affected leg. The swelling has the tendency to become chronic when the blood clot inside the vein does not dissolve. It can also lead to discomfort and permanent swelling. As with any other surgery, the back surgery might also trigger thrombophlebitis.

    Post-surgery, it is very important to lower the risk of DVT. It can be done in two ways:

    • Mechanical Way To Help The Blood Move – Circulating blood is not likely to clot. One of the most effective treatments of DVT is to get the patient moving for effective blood circulation.
    • Medical Method To Stop The Clotting Of Blood – Use of appropriate medicines. Drugs which can slow the mechanism of clotting are widely available and are also effective.

    In most of the cases of spinal surgery, medical and mechanical measures are used simultaneously.

  3. Lung Problems as an Associated Risk for Back Surgery:

    It is necessary to keep a check on the lungs and ensure that they are working at their best. It helps to ensure that all the body tissues are able to receive oxygen. As the lungs are not exercised adequately after the surgery, it can cause a low level of blood oxygen along with pneumonia. Lungs might fail to work normally after the surgery. The medicines used for anesthesia might not allow the lungs to function normally. Hence, spinal anesthesia is usually preferred over general anesthesia.

    These are some complexities of having a back surgery which you should keep in mind. However, if the surgery is an unavoidable one, you must make sure that you are aware of the risks of having back surgery and the appropriate care to prevent any severe complications. Follow the instructions told by the doctor and start the basic activities as soon as your doctor advises to avoid further complications.


Sheetal DeCaria, M.D.
Sheetal DeCaria, M.D.
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Sheetal DeCaria, M.D. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:February 22, 2022

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