Back Surgery
Weighing the Risks and
Understanding the Benefits

Back surgery has risks, and it has benefits, you need to understand both before proceeding.

When considering any type of treatment plan for your back pain you should always think about the risks and benefits and include your doctor in the discussion.






Many treatments are low risk and can be very helpful, but no treatment is without risk, even bed rest poses the risk of increased stiffness and muscle weakness.

Every person's situation is different and your doctor can help you understand what risks you face when thinking about any type of treatment.

Surgery is no different except that the risks may be bigger and the potential benefits may be better.

But again, your doctor can help you understand how these risks and potential benefits relate to you personally.

Common Risks of Back Surgery 



   •Nerve Damage


Risk of Excessive Bleeding

In most cases the risks of excessive bleeding is well controlled with modern instruments and techniques. But accidents can happen and problems do arise.

Certain blood disorders can increase your risk of bleeding. 

X-ray after surgery for scoliosis

 Image thanks to Silverjonny via Wikimedia Commons

If you are taking any medications that thin your blood, your doctor can help you understand the risks of stopping that medication for your surgery.

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Infection Risk

In a modern hospital the risk of infection is minimized by using sterile techniques and antibiotic medications at the time of surgery.

People with weakened immune systems will have additional risk of infection. Depending on your personal situation the risk of infection may outweigh the potential benefits.

Possible Nerve Damage

Your surgeon has studied the anatomy and he will do everything possible to avoid nerve damage but the risk is never zero.

The risk of nerve damage is increased anytime the normal anatomy has been altered, such as following a severe trauma, or if you have had prior surgeries in that area.

Risk of Death

The biggest risk of any surgery is death. This can result from any of the above risks or other unforeseen circumstances that may arise.

If you have other substantial diseases or health problems it may increase your risk of death from back surgery.

Benefits of Back Surgery 

The goal of any surgery is to relieve pain and improve your quality of life by allowing increased activity. A successful surgery can be a life changing event allowing you to return to work and resume normal activities.

Realistic Expectations

Prior to your surgery you need to have a frank discussion with your surgeon about what you can realistically expect after surgery.

There will most likely be at least some restrictions on what you can do and you need to know what they will be. Knowing and understanding this is an important part of considering the risks and benefits of your planned surgery.

The risks of spine surgery must be considered on an individual basis because everybody has a unique situation. How the risks relate to you will depend on your age, your overall general health, and any other diseases or conditions you may have.

Only your doctor, who is familiar with your situation, can help you understand “YOUR” risks and benefits of back surgery.



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