Lower back surgery is a complex procedure that involves a fusion between two vertebrae in the lower spine. While it is possible to have a successful and complication-free fusion, some risks can come with any type of surgery which you should be aware of before deciding whether or not to undergo this procedure.
With that said, let’s explore some of those risks more in-depth.
What are the risks of lower back surgery?
Low back surgery is a procedure that requires a fusion between two vertebrae in the lower spine. To accomplish this task, surgeons typically create a bone graft from bone from another part of the patient’s body, which they place in the area where the two vertebrae need to be joined. Once an enzyme solidifies those grafts, the fusion is complete and permanent. This procedure is done to relieve lower back pain and prevent chronic pain from occurring again in most cases.
Several factors increase your risk of having a complication with lower back surgery. These include:
- Your age
- Your overall health (especially your immune system)
- The type of surgery you get done
Lower back surgery is typically performed on patients between the ages of 32 and 85, but there are exceptions to this rule. The majority of patients who get lower back surgery are between the ages of 51 and 70, so patients in their 30s and 40s should be aware that their bodies may not respond to lower back surgery in the same way that others would, especially considering that younger bodies heal faster than older bodies do.
Lower back surgery is an invasive procedure, so your overall health before the surgery should be considered if you have other health concerns along with your back problem, your risk of needing post-operative care increases.
Types of lower back surgeries
There are multiple types of lower back surgeries that are performed by surgeons all over the country.
- The most common type is lumbar spinal fusion, which relieves the lower spine and prevents chronic pain from occurring again.
- There are also minimally invasive lower back surgeries that can be performed to relieve acute pain associated with compressed nerves or discs. Still, these types of procedures typically do not require the same amount of time for recovery as lumbar spinal fusions do.
- Another type of lower back surgery is called vertebral augmentation. This procedure involves injecting bone marrow or some other type of biocompatible material into the spine, which is used to increase the height of that vertebrae. This increases the amount of space between the vertebrae that are being operated on, allowing even more room for your spinal cord and nerves to move about. This procedure is done on patients with degenerative issues with their cervical spine, where the neck meets the upper part of your spine.
What are some common complications from lower back surgeries?
While it is possible to have a complication-free recovery from lower back fusion surgery, there are some risks associated with this procedure.
- As mentioned before, one of the biggest ones is the risk of having a post-operative infection. This can be caused by bacteria or other microorganisms contaminating your surgical site.
- Another complication involves nerve damage, which often occurs due to improper positioning during the surgery. The wrong position can also cause numbness and pain in your legs and feet, which may last for days and weeks after the surgery.
- Lower back surgery also increases your risk of developing a spinal cord injury because there is always a risk that some type of pressure could be placed on the spinal cord during this procedure. This pressure can lead to some kind of spinal cord compression that is not supposed to be there, which can cause permanent damage.
- As a final complication that should be discussed, the most common complication from lower back surgery is a blood clot. This occurs when a blood vessel near your spine gets blocked by a piece of bone, fat, or scar tissue. The pressure from this buildup leads to clots forming underneath the bone grafts or vertebrae, which can cause severe pain and other complications.
Usage of medical devices
Lower back surgery involves transferring blood or other fluids from one part of your body to another. One of the most common devices used during spinal fusions is an intervertebral shunt, which is placed where the two vertebrae need to be fused.
The trachea–also known as the windpipe–is a tube that moves air into and out of your lungs, and it is used during all types of surgeries that require you to breathe on your own.
Intravenous gastric tubes are used to deliver nutrients intravenously into your body during surgery, but they are typically only required in cases where there are very severe medical complications.
Premia Spine medical devices are also commonly used during lower back surgeries (without any fusion even). These are used to help reduce the pressure on your spine, further preventing nerve damage and other complications.
What is the recovery time for lower back surgery?
Lower back surgery recovery times vary greatly depending on your overall health at the time of surgery. Still, most patients find that the recovery periods last anywhere from six to twelve months. You can do some things to speed up and even improve your recovery, and we will cover those tips below.
Most patients who undergo a lumbar spinal fusion will need physical therapy, so they can start rehabilitating their muscles and helping them function as normally as possible after surgery.
If you consider lower back surgery, it is essential to find out as much information about this procedure as possible. Compare the amount of recovery time with other lower back surgeries, and know what to expect in terms of complications associated with this operation.
Patients who undergo lower back surgery should also talk to their physical therapists about the possibility of using medical devices while they are being treated. This will help them speed up your recovery times, which can help you avoid needing any type of post-operative care after the operation.