What Can Go Wrong During Spinal Surgery?

On Behalf of | Jul 11, 2017 | Medical Malpractice


When undergoing a drastic life event such as spinal surgery, you want to be assured that nothing will go wrong. However, any surgery is at risk of complications, and with spinal surgeries, those complications can be more serious than most. Let’s take a look at the risks you should be aware of. 

General Surgical Risks

  • Anesthesia

Spinal surgeries require general anesthesia, which puts you to sleep rather than simply numbing the surrounding area of the body. Unfortunately, some people may have an allergic reaction to anesthesia, while in other cases anesthesia may interfere with other medications or any prior medical issues you already have. Be sure to talk to your anesthesiologist about your concerns.

  • Blood Clots

During surgery, the body does its best to prevent bleeding, and thus the natural clotting process is more active than normal. Blood that is not flowing pools up and becomes stagnant. These clots can build up primarily in veins in the legs, called deep venous thrombosis, or DVT, which cause chronic pain and swelling in the leg. Even worse, these clots can break off into the bloodstream and block blood flow to the heart (heart attack), brain (stroke), or lungs (pulmonary embolism). To prevent this, it’s recommended that patients wear support hose or compression socks to encourage blood flow in the legs, take anticoagulant (blood-thinning) medication, and return to physical activities as soon as possible.

  • Infection

Infections are a potential danger following any surgical procedure. They are usually prevented by taking antibiotics before the surgery takes place. Despite this, sometimes surgical wounds become infected afterward, which result in fever and inflammation.

Specific Risks for Spinal Surgery

  • Dural Tears

With any spinal surgery, there is a risk of tearing the dura, a fluid-filled sac of tissue that covers the spinal cord and nerves. Most of the time, any tears are found during surgery and stitched shut. If missed, the tear may leak cerebrospinal fluid and result in infection or spinal headache. If it is unable to heal on its own, a second operation will be needed to repair it.

  • Nerve damage

Spinal surgery also runs the risk of injuring the spinal cord and damaging the nerves. Though uncommon, this damage can result in pain, numbness, or paralysis of one or both of the legs, though different parts of the body may be affected instead. This happens in less than one in 300 operations.

  • Scarring

Despite successful surgeries, one in three people continue to have pain-related symptoms after spinal surgery. This is sometimes the result of scar tissue, which can cause pressure and pain similar to nerve compression on the spinal cord.

Spinal surgery is risky business, and your doctor should inform you of all your options. If you or someone you love has experienced surgery-related complications due to medical malpractice, consider a free consultation with a skilled medical malpractice attorney who will help you win the compensation you deserve.


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