If you’re concerned about the risks of back surgery, I’m guessing that you’re considering surgery for a lower back pain or sciatica. Or perhaps you’re doing some research for a loved one or friend.  Whatever your reasons, let’s start by saying there’s a time and place for most things.  And there’s a time and place for surgery.  As an Edinburgh osteopath for nearly 30 years, I’ve seen many people in your situation.  Here’s a little breakdown of the risks you are taking.  I’ve taken all of the information below from a review by Proietti, Luca et al., 2013.  It’s entitled  “Complications in lumbar spine surgery: A retrospective analysis“.

The risks of back surgery for disc problems

A review of 133 people having lumbar microdiscectomies (Proietti, Luca et al., 2013) showed that only 6 people had “complications”. Complications means things going wrong.  The table below is taken straight from that study.

  • Transitory neurological radicular deficit may mean weakness or numbness in part of the leg.
  • Deep venous thrombosis is a blood clot.  This is a risk of many surgeries.
  • Durotomy is where the membrane around the spinal cord is punctured.
  • Ileus is a blockage in part of the intestinal tract.

133 people

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And it’s worth bearing in mind that a year after surgery people are no better than those who elect not to have surgery.

Risks of back surgery for lumbar stenosis

88 people

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“Misplaced screw”?  Where did it go???

Risks of back surgery for spondylolisthesis

70 people

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More missing screws!!?

Risks of back surgery are affected by age

You can see from the bar chart below, that risks of back surgery generally increase as you get older.  The only exception is that there is no increase in risk from young adults to the middle aged for minor complications.
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Summary of risks of back surgery

I hope that’s given you a good overview.  I’ve written a few articles on related topics, so have a good look around the blog if you’d like more information on this.

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