Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Spine and Neck Surgery

What are the risks associated with commonly performed spinal procedures?

All procedures carry some risk. Minor procedures are considered minor because there is a substantially reduced recovery period, or no recovery required, and the risks are very low. As always, Dr. Rappard will insure that the benefits of a potential operation far outweigh the risks.

Spinal injections

Spinal injections are considered minor procedures. Theoretical risks associated with spinal injection are nerve injury and infection. In 2013 there were reports of infections occurring with spinal epidural injections performed in other parts of the country. In these cases physicians were injecting medications that had been contaminated. Contamination occurred during the mixing of these medications at outside pharmacies. We do not use premixed medications. Our patients have never been at risk of infection from this form of contamination.

Cervical rhizotomy

A rhizotomy procedure is a procedure where a needle is placed against a nerve in the neck. Energy is then applied to the nerve resulting in a prolonged anesthesia. In about 10%–20% of cases patients will tell us that there is a transient spasm or a transient alteration in sensation of the skin. This usually resolves within 2–4 weeks.

Endoscopic spine surgery

Endoscopic surgery can have some important complications although the incidence is rare, about 2%. Complications include neurological injury. Neurological injury can result in numbness, pain and weakness. Other complications include bleeding or infection. If massive, complications could result in paralysis or loss of bowel and bladder function. It is important to note that complications of this degree are extremely rare. Side effects of endoscopic surgery are more common. In about 20% of lumbar cases we see postoperative leg pain. In some cases this is due to healing of a previously compressed nerve and in other cases this is due to irritation during surgery. This pain usually resolves within 4–6 weeks and can be treated relatively easily with medications or injections. Very rarely, there may be minor weakness due to nerve irritation. This usually resolves within 1–2 weeks.

Minimally invasive lumbar fusion

Minimally invasive lumbar fusion can have similar complications as endoscopic spine surgery, about a 2% risk of neurological injury. In addition, there is about a 10% risk of nonunion. Nonunion occurs when there is incomplete bony healing of the bone placed to span the region of the removed disc.

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