Risk of Infection From Invasive Spinal Surgeries

Spinal fusion and disc replacement surgeries are two common methods used to address back pain and intervertebral disc issues. Both of these procedures are highly invasive, and they do not always carry the highest success rates compared to other, more minimally-invasive treatment options. In addition, they are associated with high risk for a number of different health complications, including infections, urinary tract infections, pneumonia, sepsis, and more.

Spinal Fusion and Disc Replacement Surgery

Spinal fusions are an invasive spinal surgery that involves physically fusing two or more of the vertebrae in the spine. These procedures require the back to be cut open so that metal rods and other components can be inserted into the spine itself.

During the surgery, pieces of actual bone or synthetic bone grafts are inserted into the spaces between the vertebrae where intervertebral discs are often located. Then, metal plates, rods, or screws are attached to the spine to help hold these new bone additions in place. This setup allows the bones to grow together into one single piece of bone.

Spinal fusions are designed to improve spinal stability. These procedures may be performed to help correct spinal deformities. They can also address spinal weakness, severe spinal arthritis, or a herniated disc that has been removed.

Disc replacement surgery is designed to address injuries relating to the intervertebral discs themselves. If you have severe disc degeneration or a disc herniation, a replacement disc may be inserted into the spine to improve functionality. An incision must be made in the spine in order for a replacement disc to be inserted, which opens up the risk for a variety of issues, including infections.

The Risks Associated with Invasive Spinal Surgeries

Invasive spinal procedures can carry significant risk for a number of different health issues. Here are a few of the potential issues that may arise.


One of the biggest risks of invasive spinal procedures is an infection. Infections can occur if bacteria or other harmful micro-organisms enter the wound from the incision and begin to affect the surrounding tissues. Infections generally take between two and four weeks to manifest themselves, and the initial signs and symptoms include stiffness, tenderness in the area, redness of the skin, general pain, muscle weakness, and more.

Treatment for infections can be quite costly and time-consuming. One study examined nearly 1,500 patients that underwent lumbar fusions, and they noted infections in more than two percent of cases. Cases of infection resulted in the need for 66 additional surgeries and more than 1,000 extra days staying in the hospital. 

One study compared the risk of developing an infection based on whether a minimally-invasive or open fusion surgery had been performed. Researchers found that minimally invasive procedures carried only a 0.6 percent chance of developing an infection, but that invasive spinal surgeries carried a much higher risk of infection at four to five percent. 

The costs of the treatments following the procedures were also compared. Treating an infection occurring from an invasive procedure carried an average cost of just over $29,000. On the other hand, those undergoing minimally-invasive procedures, such as The Discseel® Procedure or a discectomy, received a cost reduction of around $100,000 per 100 surgeries performed.


Another potential risk is the development of osteomyelitis. Osteomyelitis is a bone infection, and it can occur if a bone is exposed to germs. This disease often occurs within just a few weeks of the procedure. This risk is higher with invasive surgeries due to the open incisions. 

If you do get a bone infection, it can cause a fever and general fatigue. The area surrounding the bone can also be painful, swollen, and warm or tender to the touch. If left untreated, osteomyelitis can cause even more severe symptoms, including bone death, irregular bone growth, cancer, or septic arthritis. Sepsis can lead to further health complications, including death.

Urinary Tract Infections

Urinary tract infections, or UTIs, can commonly occur after lumbar fusion procedures. One study looked at nearly 11,000 patients who underwent lumbar fusion surgery. They examined a number of different health factors, and they found that almost one out of every 50 patients was diagnosed with a UTI.

In addition to this risk, the development of a UTI further increased the risk of systemic sepsis by almost 14 times more than an average healthy adult. Systemic sepsis causes infection to spread throughout the body and can lead to a variety of severe health problems, including organ failure and death.

All in all, invasive spinal surgeries are associated with high risk for a number of different health issues. If left untreated, these problems can become more severe and even potentially lead to death. Minimally-invasive procedures, such as discectomies and the Discseel® Procedure, provide much safer options and can provide even more effective results.


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