Are Blood Clots a Side Effect of Spinal Surgery?
In the past several years, spinal surgery procedures have become safer and more effective due to advances in technology, imaging, minimally-invasive surgical techniques, and materials used. These advances have lead to improved results in treating spinal issues like slipped discs, spinal stenosis, and spondylosis, among other conditions, but the fact still remains that all back surgery is serious surgery that can sometimes pose serious risks. Blood clots are indeed among those serious risks of back surgery. Fortunately, blood clots (also known as deep vein thrombosis or DVT) are rare after spinal surgery and are certainly much less common than after other common surgeries such as hip and knee replacement.
Whenever the body experiences an injury, you can run a risk of developing blood clots as the body responds to any injury by stimulating the clotting process as part of its natural healing. When you undergo spinal surgery, the body revs up the clotting process in response to the surgery. This state of increased coagulation in combination with limited mobility, can allow for blood clots to form in the veins of the legs. If one of these blood clots becomes dislodged, it can travel to the lungs causing a pulmonary embolism. This is a rare, but very serious situation.
If you’re considering any type of back surgery, you do need to be aware of the possible complications that can occur, blood clots being among them. You’ll talk to your doctor to learn about all of the smart steps you can take post-surgery to reduce your risk of developing blood clots. These steps might include using stockings or mechanical pumps that squeeze your legs while your are in the hospital, getting up and moving around as soon as possible after surgery, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle via proper nutrition and hydration while avoiding alcohol and tobacco products. Patient with more serious spinal disorders and spinal cord injuries may be placed on medication to thin their blood for a period of time.
With use of minimally invasive spinal surgery techniques, the risk of a blood clot (DVT) is low. That being said, if you experience swelling in one or both of your legs following surgery or shortness of breath, contact your doctor immediately. Once diagnosed, a deep vein thrombosis can be treated with medications that help your body dissolve the clot. The best protection against a blood clot is getting active and mobile as soon as possible after surgery.