Preventing Common Spine Surgery Complications

Surgical procedures continue to improve each and every day. As surgeons, we’ve taken an oath to do everything in our power to protect our patients, but complications can arise for even the best surgeons. Surgery takes a major toll on the body, and the spine is an intricate and complex system, so it’s no surprise that surgery doesn’t go perfectly each and every time. That said, at Minnesota Spine and Brain Institute, we do everything in our power to reduce the risk of surgical and post-op complications. Here’s a look at some of the more common complications, and how we work to prevent them.

Safe Surgery Assessment

Below are some of the more common risk associated with surgery. Even though we’re calling these “common risks,” it’s important to know that as a whole, these risks are very rare. Here’s what we watch out for:

Bleeding – Doctors work to minimize the risk of bleeding after surgery by asking about your medication history, as some medications can increase your risk. The doctor will also ask about any previous surgeries, and if you experienced any bleeding at that time. Your surgeon may also have you donate blood weeks before the operation so some is available if need be. Lastly, if possible, the doctor minimizes risk of bleeding during spine surgery by opting for a minimally invasive surgical technique.

Infection – Preventing an infection is a team task by the surgical unit. They do this by ensuring all instruments are sterilized, by reducing the number of people inside the operating room, and again by opting for minimally invasive techniques. The larger to surgical site, the greater a chance for infection.

Hardware Failure – Sometimes your operation calls for the implementation of spinal hardware. If you’re having artificial disc replacement, your doctor will work to prevent hardware failure by taking comprehensive scans of your back to look for potential problems. Based on what they see, they’ll pick the proper device, and a good surgeon will walk you through your recovery process. Hardware can fail because the patient tried to return to normal activities too soon, so it’s imperative that you and your doctor are on the same page when it comes to your rehab.

Anesthesia – In rare cases, some people have a bad reaction to the anesthesia used to sedate the patient. Surgeons prevent these complications by using special medical devices to monitor your vital signs to ensure your breathing and heart rate stays stable. They also ask about your experience with anesthesia and delve into your complete medical background to look for co-morbidities (like diabetes, hypertension, sleep apnea, etc.) that could cause issues during surgery.

Anxiety – It’s completely normal to be anxious before and after your spine surgery, but stress and anxiety can actually inhibit healing. Stress can lead to poor diet choices or a decreased desire to complete rehab exercises that promote healing. The best way to reduce anxiety is to talk with your doctor about any questions you have. Have him explain the surgical process, what rehab will be like, and ask him what you can do in the days leading up to surgery to prepare for life after surgery to help keep some of that stress at bay.

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