Spine Surgery Complications and How to Avoid Them

Every major and minor surgery carries a risk of complication after the surgery is complete, and back surgery is no different. Blood clots, fatigue, reactions to the anesthesia, and pain are all very common following any procedure. While infections only occur after 1% of the 27 million surgeries performed each year, it is still always a possibility. Here are our top risks of back surgery complications and what you can do to prevent them.

Anesthesia Complications

Major surgeries require anesthesia to keep you free of pain during surgery. Although most people don’t experience complications from anesthesia, these can include heart attack, stroke, brain damage, and even death. Let your doctors know if anyone in your family has ever had a problem with anesthesia, and also if you use alcohol or any type of drugs. Post-surgery, anesthesia can also make you feel confused and disoriented, so you should never drive after your spine surgery.

Blood Clots (DVT)

Deep Venous Thrombosis (DVT), or Thrombophlebitis, is a condition in which blood clots form inside the veins of the legs. DVT, is a fairly common problem following various surgical procedures, particularly after surgery to the lower extremities. Blood clots form in the veins of the calves and can grow and move up into the veins of the thighs or even the veins of the pelvis. Risk of developing blood clots increases after surgery because the body is trying to stop all the bleeding that the surgery produced.

DVT can be prevented by moving, as blood that is moving is less likely to clot. Walking helps to keep the blood in the legs moving but while you are in bed resting, you can try to pump your feet up and down as if you are pushing down on the gas pedal in your car to keep the circulation in your legs going. You can also wear support hose to close the veins of the legs and reduce the amount of stagnant blood. DVT can also be prevented by taking medications to slow down the body’s clotting mechanism.


Spine surgery incurs the risk of unexpected bleeding. When a spine surgery is performed through the abdominal cavity, such as when an anterior approach is used to reach the lower spine, surgeons have to move the abdominal aorta and large vessels going to the legs out of the way. This can cause disruption in the nearby blood vessels. There’s not much you can do to prevent this, but surgeons take extra care to avoid harming the nearby vessels.


Perhaps the most preventable of the complications mentioned here, infection is the most common complication as it has the potential to occur after any type of surgery. Your doctor gives you a leg up following surgery with an arsenal of antibiotics that you may take before and after surgery. Infection can occur from the incision or deep within the wound. If you notice that your wound is red, hot, swollen, and not healing, call your doctor right away. Other signs of infection include clear liquid or pus protruding from the wound, smelly drainage, increasing pain, and fever. By keeping your wound clean and making sure whoever visits you while you are recovering has washed their hands every time they come you make huge strides in reducing your infection risk.

If you have questions following your spine surgery in New Jersey, contact us for more information.