Marijuana Use May Negatively Affect Spine Surgery Outcomes

Category: Spine Surgery | Author: Stefano Sinicropi


New research published in Spine suggests that chronic marijuana use could lead to an increased likelihood of complications during and after spine surgery.

According to researchers, heavy marijuana use prior to spine surgery can lead to a number of physical complications, and it can add to a patient’s financial burden.

“Chronic cannabis use among patients undergoing spine surgery is associated with higher rates of inpatient neurovascular, thromboembolic, and pulmonary complications, and less favorable overall discharge disposition,” said Ankit Indravadan Mehta, MD, FAANS and colleagues at the University of Illinois at Chicago. “The treatment of these patients is also associated with increased length of stay and cost of hospitalization.”

Marijuana And Spine Surgery

To get a better understanding of how chronic marijuana use may impact spine surgery success rates, researchers took a closer look at nationwide hospital data that included nearly 433,000 patients who underwent a common elective spine surgery between 2012 and 2015. About 2,400 of these patients were diagnosed with cannabis use disorder, which is defined as continued use of cannabis despite significant distress or impairment.

Using a technique called propensity score matching, a group of 2,184 chronic cannabis users were compared to non-users with similar characteristics, comorbidities and demographics. A number of surgical complications and spine surgery outcomes were then analyzed between both groups.

After comparing the data, researchers found:

  • Cannabis users were about twice as likely to develop respiratory and blood clot-related complications.
  • Cannabis users were nearly three times as likely to suffer a stroke or other neurologic complications.
  • Cannabis users were about 50 percent more likely to develop a bloodstream infection.
  • Cannabis users were also more likely to suffer a heart attack related to the procedure, but this is more tied to the fact that cannabis users were much more likely to also be tobacco users compared to the control group.

But perhaps the most interesting finding was how cannabis use disorder related to patient costs and time spent in the hospital. The team found that on average, patients with cannabis use disorder spent nearly two more days in the hospital after surgery and had hospital costs nearly $15,000 higher than the other group. Additionally, marijuana users were more likely to be discharged to a nursing or rehabilitation facility and less likely to receive home health care.

That’s not to say that occasional recreational marijuana use will always complicate your spine surgery, but as cannabis becomes legal in more states across the US, patients and providers need to account for the possibility that cannabis use disorder could cause problems during your spinal procedure. If you use recreationally or medicinally, make sure your treating physician is aware. We’re not here to judge, we’re here to help you have great surgical outcomes, and knowing the total scope of your health will help us prepare for any potential hurdles to your success.

For more information, or to talk to a spine specialist about your back or neck pain, reach out to Dr. Sinicropi’s office today.

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