Obesity has long been thought to be a mere cosmetic problem; however, it is deemed by experts as a medical issue associated with a host of medical conditions, such as diabetes, hypertension, arthritis, and chronic back problems. That is to say, every major structure in your body bears the brunt of your excess weight, and among these structures is your spine.
Obese patients contemplating surgery to address their chronic back problems have to consider various factors, which have the potential to impede a successful outcome. Therefore, if you are living with obesity and chronic back pain, here are things you should know before considering back surgery.
Challenges in Maneuvering and Guiding Surgical Equipment
An excessive amount of body fat can make maneuvering you for diagnostic imaging and navigating surgical implements to the right place in your back a tough challenge for your spine surgeon.
Risk of Postoperative Complications
A 2016 review of medical literature featured in the Global Spine Journal determined that “comorbid” conditions—which refer to additional diseases that exist with obesity—play a significant role in the increased likelihood of postoperative complications.
As mentioned, obesity has been widely associated with metabolic and cardiovascular diseases, such as diabetes and coronary artery disease (cholesterol plaque buildup in the arteries of the heart). The presence of such conditions can make your surgery “trickier” for your surgeon to carry out without incident.
Thomas Jefferson University researchers concur, after establishing that the risk for surgery complications increases vis-a-vis the degree of obesity. In other words, if you have a very high body mass index (BMI), you also have a greater risk of experiencing problems pertaining to your back surgery.
Obesity is linked to longer operative times, increased blood loss, higher treatment cost, higher risk of mortality, and venous thromboembolism (clot in your blood vessels). The occurrence of comorbidities mentioned above has been seen to contribute to these operative challenges and postoperative complications.
Obesity has also been correlated with a higher incidence of postoperative infection in patients who went for back surgery. In a retrospective study of the American College of Surgeons National Surgeons Quality Improvement Program (NSQIP) database, Lim et al. identified a significantly higher risk of surgical site infection in the obese population. This is said to be attributable to the impairment of the innate immune and adaptive immune responses in obese patients, causing their bodies to have slow defenses to pathogens.
A study conducted in 2012 analyzed yet another potential concern for people living with obesity who are considering surgery for their lumbar spinal stenosis (narrowing of the spinal canal). The study was geared toward unraveling the impact of body mass index (BMI) on the result of the surgical procedure.
Results of the study show that patients with higher BMI reported poor outcomes and low satisfaction at both of their 12- and 24-month follow-ups. BMI of 30 kg/m2 is the cutoff for the prediction of worse patient outcomes after lumbar surgery.
Back Surgery in Denver, CO
Obesity is a complex, multifactorial disease. Therefore, if you’re living with both obesity and chronic back pain and surgery is your only recourse, it behooves you to see a doctor who specializes in spine surgery and whom you can trust with a positive outcome.
Here at Front Range Spine and Neurosurgery, we have two board-certified spine surgeons who have decades of experience in diagnosing and treating a broad spectrum of spine conditions. After doing a comprehensive evaluation, our spine surgeon may recommend a minimally invasive surgical technique, which can reduce surgical trauma and consequently the risk for surgical site infection and other complications.
Trust is an integral part of your healthcare, and our providers have the expertise and experience—and utilize a patient-centered approach—that you can rely on to help you achieve your goal to live a pain-free life.
If you want to arrange a consultation with our spine surgeon at Front Range Spine and Neurosurgery, please call us at (303) 790-1800, or you may use this appointment request form. We look forward to serving you!