Risks and Potential Side Effects of Spondylolisthesis Surgery
Spondylolisthesis surgery is usually the last resort formanagement of the symptoms related to vertebralslippage. Symptoms of spondylolisthesis might includechronic pain, stiffness, tingling, reduction in range ofmotion, numbness, or muscle weakness. About 90percent of spondylolisthesis patients can find reliefthrough nonsurgical treatment methods such as painmedication, strength-building exercises, stretching forimproved flexibility, and other methods. Surgery to repairvertebral slippage is typically reserved for patients whoare experiencing severe physical limitations or have beenunable to manage their symptoms after several weeks ormonths of conservative treatment.
Spondylolisthesis Surgery is Highly InvasiveOne reason so few spondylolisthesis patients may hesitate to have spondylolisthesissurgery is the highly invasive nature of spinal fusion, which is the operation oftenrecommended to provide meaningful relief and long-term spinal stability. The surgery– which can be used to reposition a slipped vertebra and permanently fuse it to aproperly aligned vertebra above or below it – requires overnight hospitalization, theuse of general anesthesia, a large incision, and the insertion of metal and plasticstabilizing hardware. Bone graft material also is used in some cases to furtherimmobilize the affected vertebral segment.The goal of spinal fusion is to reinforce the slipped vertebra in itsproper position and permanently immobilize the vertebral segmentThat has been affected by spondylolisthesis. While this type of surgeryis successful more often than it is unsuccessful, there are manyrisks and potential side effects that should be considered beforeconsenting to spinal fusion.
Potential Risk & Side EffectsIn general, spinal fusion is followed by a long and arduous recovery process. Early on, recovery is focused on the healingof the soft tissues affected by the surgery. Infection, if it occurs, typically develops within the first few days aftersurgery.There are several other potential drawbacks and side effects to be aware of when considering spinal fusion surgery.These include: • Fusion failure – A false joint, known as pseudoarthrosis, might develop if the bones don’t fuse as expected. If this occurs, additional surgery might become necessary. • Bone graft rejection – For a variety of reasons, including incompatibility, the body might not respond well to the introduction of new bone material. The graft material is often taken from the patient’s own body to encourage acceptance. • Anesthesia allergy – A small percentage of patients experience adverse reactions to general anesthesia, including a reduction of lung function while unconscious. • Blood clots – Also known as thrombosis. Steps must be taken by the surgical team to avoid potentially life- threatening problems, including pulmonary embolism. • Infection – This is not all that common, but if it does happen it can be life-threatening. • Nerve damage – A surgical instrument that cuts a nerve can cause permanent damage. This is exceedingly rare, but can have devastating long-term effects, including paralysis. • Range of motion loss – Anytime vertebrae are fused together, the patient can expect to permanently lose some range of motion in that area of the spine.
Alternatives to Highly Invasive Spondylolisthesis SurgeryBefore deciding to undergo spondylolisthesis surgery orspine surgery of any kind, there are a number ofconservative, non-surgical methods of treatment toconsider. These includebracing, exercise, stretching, posture modificationtherapy, chiropractic adjustments, and more. Manypatients require more than one of these types oftreatment, and they should work closely with theirdoctors to formulate the right treatment plan. It’simportant to keep these treatment methods in mind ifyou are unable to undergo surgical treatment for anyreason.
Minimally Invasive Surgery Might Be an OptionSome patients with early-stage spondylolisthesis (25 percentslippage or less) might find relief through minimallyinvasive, outpatient procedures performed usingadvanced, endoscopic techniques. These procedures generallycarry far less risk than spinal fusion, but are used to treatnerve compression, rather than correct the actual vertebralslippage.No elective spine surgery should be consented to without firstseeking a second opinion to confirm the initial diagnosis andto make sure no conservative treatment methods have beenoverlooked.