Categories: Orthopaedics

Are spinal surgeries safe?

According to an article published in Times of India, India sees more than 200,000 cases of spinal injuries a year, out of which 50% register for road traffic accidents, 45% accounts for falls from heights, and rest due to other causes like sports injuries and the like. Moreover, the gap between people with surgical requirements and the actual numbers availing it is extremely huge at around 75%.

Why the gap?

One of the major reasons apart from the shortage of specialists is the perceived insecurity about the surgical procedures pertaining to spinal surgeries. Another important aspect is the expected results of surgery, which to a greater level depends on post-surgical rehabilitation. In India, this aspect is ignored to the utmost, postponing, or eliminating the desired results.

Let us dig deeper further…

What are the indications of Spinal Surgeries?

  • Direct Injury
  • Mechanical back pain progressively disabling
  • Back Pain associated with numbness, tingling, or loss of sensation
  • Vertebral Disc degeneration or disc herniation
  • Cervical Spondylosis or Lumbar Spondylosis
  • Spinal stenosis with an associated deformity
  • Spondylolisthesis
  • Spinal Fractures
  • Spinal Tumors

Types of Spinal Surgery

  1. Diskectomy – Surgical procedure where a herniated portion of the disk is removed sparing the nerve and the pain
  2. Spinal Fusion – Two vertebras are fused together to relieve pain and inflamed joints
  3. Laminectomy – This method is used to enlarge the spinal canal eliminating nerve compression due to spinal stenosis
  4. Surgical implantation of artificial disks
  5. Tendon transfer surgery where tendons from the elbow or wrist may be used to replace damaged tendons

There is no denying the fact that spinal surgeries are complicated.

Why the perceived insecurity?

Spinal surgery has a set of potential risks involved:

  • Allergy due to General Anaesthesia
  • Deep Vein Thrombosis
  • Lung Infection or pneumonia
  • Surgical Site infection
  • Implant migration
  • Spinal Cord injury
  • Pain
  • Sexual Dysfunction
  • Pseudoarthrosis

Well, most of the above complications stand for any other surgical procedure.

Advancements to limit complications: 

  • Spinal Navigation Technology – Including computer-assisted image-guided technology to enhance the vision during the procedure
  • Bio-resorbable implants of Titanium with significantly improved visibility
  • Bone Morphogenetic Proteins (BMP) for the osteoporotic spine
  • Intra-operative spinal cord monitoring and cell saver equipment
  • Flexible radiolucent spinal implants
  • Genetically engineered disc tissue

We have put across various aspects of spine surgery in front of you to decide further. It should be wise to take more than one opinion in such matters before you make up your mind. Standardization of protocols pertaining to spinal procedures will eventually ease the entire process.

All surgeries have complications and the trade-off is pain-free life without problems severely impairing your activities of daily living. Irrationality may not interfere with your quality of life…

Dr. Lalit Kumar, Consultant – Orthopaedics, Dharamshila Narayana Superspeciality Hospital, Delhi

Narayana Health

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