Spinal Infection Surgery


Spinal Infection Surgery is a final resort option for people who have an infection in their spinal cord, vertebrae, or surrounding areas that are not responding to antibiotics and causing pressure on the spine.

What is it?

Although rare, spinal infections are serious conditions that need to be treated promptly.   Some parts of the spine, specifically the vertebral discs, typically do not have a great blood supply, which makes treating infections with medications slightly more complicated than other areas of the body.  If the infection spreads to the point where it begins to build up and cause an abscess (abnormal growth) on the spine, surgery needs to be performed to relieve the pressure.  Spinal Infection Surgery aims to eliminate or help alleviate the pressure on the spine or spinal nerves, and also to help remove as much of the infection as possible.  Removing a majority or all of the infection will assist in the prevention of reoccurrence and facilitate antibiotics to kill off the remaining toxicity.

What should I do to prepare?

Preparing for any surgery can be stressful.  It is best to understand and talk with your doctor about what will happen during the surgery and what to expect after it is complete.  Having a family member or close friend with you the day of surgery can help alleviate some stress.  The severity of the infection will help doctors decide whether surgery is emergent or not, and a patient should not eat or drink after the midnight before surgery.  A person will most likely be kept in the hospital for observation after the surgery; having a change of clothes or any other necessities packed can be helpful.

What happens during the process?

If the infection begins to cause sepsis, does not respond to intravenous antibiotics, or involves a significant amount of bone, surgery will most likely be the last option to eradicate the infection.   A team of surgeons and physicians will collaborate to make the final decision to operate. The patient will go through some preoperative tests to determine the best method to remove the infection.  A plan of action will be set in plac the patient will go under general anesthesia, and the doctor will begin the surgery.  The level of infection will decide which approach the surgeon will use: an anterior or posterior approach.  The surgeon will then remove the infection and assess the extent of the damage.   Infections can often make the spine very unstable, requiring the surgeon to decompress vertebrae and use tools that will help to stabilize the spine during recovery.

What are the risks and potential complications?

Any spinal surgery will pose severe risks.  A person might have an adverse reaction to anesthesia or other medications used during the procedure, experience pain and discomfort after surgery, and could potentially have a relapse of the infection.  Spinal Infection Surgery can pose some risks including, but not limited to, paralysis, secondary infection, loss of sensation or motor function, and although rare, death.


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