Obesity Boosts Back Surgery Complication Rate

TUESDAY, Oct. 10 (HealthDay News) -- Obesity increases the risk that patients will suffer complications during spinal surgery, U.S. researchers report.

In the study, a team from Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia reviewed 332 cases of thoracic and lumbar spinal surgery for routine degenerative conditions.

Of the patients in the study, 71 percent were overweight, including 39 percent who were obese.

Extremely overweight and obese patients were much more likely to suffer complications such as blood clots, wound infections, heart problems, and deep vein thrombosis, according to study author Dr. John Ratliff, assistant professor of neurological surgery and orthopedic surgery at Jefferson Medical College.

Non-obese patients had a complication rate of about 14 percent, compared to 20 percent for obese people (body mass index of 30 or more), and 36 percent for people with a BMI of 40.

"We found that the incidence of complications related directly to the degree of obesity. Not only does being obese raise the risk of complications, but the greater the degree of obesity, the more the risk of having something go wrong around the time of surgery," Ratliff said in a prepared statement.

"The take-home message is, when considering elective spine surgery, a person who is extremely overweight might consider waiting a little and losing some weight," he said.

The study was presented Monday at the Congress of Neurological Surgeons annual meeting, in Chicago.

More information

The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about lumbar spinal surgery.