In the majority of cases, your physician will recommend non-surgical treatment for lower back pain. There are times, however, when surgery will be appropriate. This may be due to a lack of other possible treatment, or the failure of other treatments.
Back surgery risks must be considered by both the patient and the physician. Every surgical procedure carries a degree of risk. There can be complications such as infection. Excessive bleeding may take place. The patient may have a reaction to the anesthesia, or they may be injury during surgery.
Back surgery risks should be discussed and understood by the patient before he or she agrees to undergo the procedure. Ask questions until you are satisfied. Get a second opinion. Read about the procedure. Ask your surgeon what your options are. Find out what would likely happen if you did not undergo the procedure.
Back surgery risks will vary with surgical procedures. Below is introductory material for various types of lower back surgery, and risks involved.
Herniated disc: A herniated disc occurs when the hard outer coating of a disc is damaged. This may allow the disc to leak, irritating nearby nerves. A herniated disc can cause severe sciatica – nerve pain that radiates from the lower back down the leg. Most herniated discs heal and pain goes away after a few months without surgery. These are the back surgery risks.
- damage to the nerve roots or spinal structures during surgery
- excessive scarring in the area of the surgery
- infection following surgery, which may cause further damage
Spinal stenosis: This condition occurs when the spinal canal narrows, compressing the nerves inside. It can lead to pain, numbness in the legs, and the loss of bladder or bowel control. Laminectomy back surgery may be used to open the spinal column and remove the lamina and any bone spurs. Here are the back surgery risks.
- infection following surgery
- excessive bleeding
- pain may actually increase after surgery
Spondylolisthesis: In this condition, a vertebra slips out of place. The spine’s attempts at stabilization may cause the joints between the slipped vertebra and those next to it to become enlarged. This can pinch nerves, causing low back pain and sever sciatica leg pain. The back surgery for this is called spinal fusion. It may be used with the Laminectomy mentioned above. In spinal fusion, two or more vertebrae are joined together with bone grafts, screws, and rods. These are the back surgery risks.
- the bone graft may not heal
- future added stress on vertebrae above and below the fusion
- reduced mobility
- the bone graft may slip out of place, requiring further back surgery
Vertebral Fractures: Vertebrae in the back may break due to injury or osteoporosis. Vertebroplasty injects a cement-like mixture into the fractured vertebra. This mixture, called polymethyacrylate, is intended to stabilize the spine. The back surgery risk involved is that new fractures in adjacent vertebrae may be caused by leaking cement.
Back surgery risks are serious. Learn how many back surgeries your surgeon has performed. Ask for a referral to someone who had the same operation. Discuss the back surgery with them. Get all the facts before you decide whether or not you will have back surgery.