Obesity Complicates Lumbar Spine Surgery

Category: Spine Surgery | Author: Stefano Sinicropi | Date: April 26, 2016

obesity complicates spine surgery

Obesity affects about 1 in 3 Americans, and the condition has been linked to a variety of health issues, including diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. But obesity also has a big impact in the operating room. Not only does obesity contribute to a higher economic burden on the healthcare system, but it’s also linked to complications during surgery. Recently, a study examined the effects obesity had on lumbar spinal surgery.

Before delving into the effects of obesity on spinal surgery, researchers looked at previous studies to see what impact obesity had on a person’s spine. According to researchers, obese patients were more likely to exhibit more spinal degeneration, higher severity of disc degeneration, and more disc-narrowing compared to healthy individuals

Obesity and Low Back Surgery

So while there is little doubt that obesity contributes to health issues, researchers were interested in learning more about how the condition affects lumbar spinal surgery success. After conducting a meta-analysis of a collection of studies, here’s what the researchers concluded:

  • Obese patients who undergo surgery for lumbar spinal stenosis have poorer outcomes compared to non-obese patients.
  • Patients with a higher BMI were more likely to be dissatisfied with the outcome of their operation.
  • Obese patients undergoing a laminectomy or lumbar fusion had an increased likelihood of complications, readmission and the need for a subsequent surgery compared to non-obese patients.
  • Obese patients were more likely to develop deep vein thrombosis, venous thromboembolism, urinary tract infections, renal failure and sepsis after lumbar spine surgery than healthy individuals.
  • Obese patients undergoing surgery for degenerative conditions had higher reports of surgical site infection, blood loss, longer lengths of hospital stay, more overall complications and worse functional recovery than non-obese individuals.

In the end, researchers suggested that obesity was a big threat to the success of spinal surgery. Weight loss can help improve some outcomes, but a lot of damage can be done by the time an obese person decides to lose some weight. The better you do at keeping the weight off or working to lose it prior to surgery, the better your chances are at an improved surgical outcome.

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