Preventing Complications During Back Surgery

Category: Spine Surgery | Author: Stefano Sinicropi | Date: December 27, 2017

Preventing Spine Surgery Complications

Every surgery carries with it some risks, but medical science has come a long way in recent decades and has significantly reduced the likelihood of complications during and after surgery. That being said, not all risks can be eliminated. Today, we take a look at some common risks associated with spine surgery, and how surgeons work to lessen or eliminate these potential complications.

Blood Loss

The good thing about an operation in the spine region is that there aren’t usually any major blood vessels in the area, which reduces the likelihood of complications due to blood loss. That being said, surgeons still work to prevent blood loss during the operation by using minimally invasive techniques.


Surgical infections occur much less frequently these days as sterilization and operative procedures have become more streamlined, but they still can occur. Estimates suggest that infections develop in about 1 in 150 spine surgeries. Some of these infections only involve the skin, while others cause problems with the spinal canal. Minimally invasive procedures help to prevent bacteria from getting in to the incision site, and your surgical team will use a specific sterilization process to ensure the instruments they are using do not bring bacteria into the area. Antibiotics may also be given to ward off infections.

Failed Spinal Surgery

A failed operation is one of the more common risks associated with spine surgery, but again, this is still very rare. Spine surgeries can fail for a number of different reasons, some of which are preventable and some of which are not. Your doctor will do everything in their power to ensure your surgery is a success. They do this by confirming that the site being operated on is the root cause of the problem, using measurement tools to ensure the correct placement of spinal hardware, and testing the patient for potential anesthesia or device allergies.

Cerebrospinal Fluid Leak

If the spinal dural sac is breached, it can cause a leak of the cerebrospinal fluid. If the leak is large it may need to be patched, otherwise the hole tends to close up on its own within a day or two of rest. Doctors prevent against breaching the dural sac by using image guided technologies and care when maneuvering needles or tools.

Nerve Damage

Nerve damage can be a potential complication of a spine surgery performed to free a compressed nerve or shift a herniated disc. Nerve damage that results in the firing of pain signals will need to be treated, while nerve damage that results in numbness may not need a secondary treatment. Precision tools, minimally invasive techniques and surgeon skill all help prevent against spinal nerve damage during surgery.

Hardware Migration

Finally, there’s a chance that your spinal hardware or implant will shift out of place during your recovery. This often happens when someone resumes physical activities before the healing has run its course. You can help prevent implant migration by following your doctor’s instructions about returning to work or activities, and doctors need to check for specific signs that the hardware has taken hold in the correct location before greenlighting certain physical activities.

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