What Is the Risk of Spinal Fusion?

Q:
What is the risk of spinal fusion?

A:
Spinal fusion, also called spondylodesis or spondylosyndesis, is a neurosurgical or orthopedic surgical technique that joins two or more vertebrae.

Spinal fusion is most commonly used to relieve the pain and pressure on the spinal cord caused by worn out disc (cartilage between two vertebrae).It can be performed at any place in the spine (cervical, thoracic, or lumbar) and prevents any movement between the fused vertebrae.

Spinal fusion is a high-risk surgery and its complications can be serious, including death. Complications mainly occur in three periods in different forms.

During surgery

  • Bleeding
  • Damage to nerves and surrounding structures.

Within a few days

  • Wound infections
  • Deep vein thrombosis (DVT)
  • Pulmonary embolism (PE)
  • Urinary retention
  • Malnutrition
  • Neurologic deficit

Weeks to years after surgery

  • Infection
  • Deformity – loss of height, alignment, and failure of fusion
  • Pseudarthrosis – nonunion between fused bone segments.
  • Adjacent segment disease – degeneration of vertebrae above/below the fused segments due to increased stress and motion.
  • Epidural fibrosis – scarring of the tissue that surrounds the spinal cord
  • Arachnoiditis – inflammation of the thin membrane surrounding the spinal cord, usually caused by infection or contrast dye.

Please remember to consult your doctor before you take this surgery.

Keywords: spinal fusion; complications.

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