Is Spinal Fusion Surgery Safe for Patients who are Overweight?

Many patients who seek pain relief from our lumbar spine surgery practice in New Jersey express concern over the idea of undergoing surgery. Their worries surround their body weight: more than one in three adults in the U.S. are categorized as overweight and more than two out of three categorized as either overweight or obese. Being overweight predisposes the human body to numerous health issues, and back pain is not the least of these. Even more concerning is the fact that being overweight can introduce additional risk factors to surgery.

The good news is that studies have shown that there are minimally invasive surgical procedures for lumbar spinal issues that have the same safety ratings for obese patients as for those whose BMI is in the lower ranges. The surgery is known as oblique lateral lumbar interbody fusion, or OLLIF.

There are many reasons why lower back pain is more prevalent in those who are overweight. The mere fact of carrying around more weight means that additional stress is being placed on the spine, as well as the muscles and ligaments that support it. Exacerbating their pain is the fact that people who are obese are less likely to exercise, eliminating the potential for them engaging in activities that will relieve their discomfort or help them to lose weight.

When a patient who is overweight or obese visits our lumbar spine specialty practice in New Jersey, we begin with the same conservative treatment options as with all other patients: we use physical therapy, massage, pain medications and exercise. If these are not helpful, we then consider our surgical options. Because we offer minimally invasive spinal surgery, we are able to offer obese patients procedures that have a much lower risk for postoperative complications such as blood loss or infection than traditional open surgeries.

Among the most common conditions that we see in patients who are overweight are degenerative conditions. The traditional surgical remedy for these conditions is spinal fusion, a surgery that requires a deep incision and other traumas to muscle and tissue. Minimally invasive surgeries offer the possibility of having the same procedure done using an incision that is barely the size of a coin and which means much less damage to tissue, no matter whether the patients undergo surgery for degenerative disc disease, herniated disc, spondylosis or spondylolisthesis.  Patients have been able to enjoy the benefits of shorter surgical times, reduced or eliminated overnights at the hospital, less blood loss and fewer complications. Overall, patients who are overweight are able to take advantage of all of the positive outcomes that are offered to all other patients.

No matter what your weight or condition, minimally invasive surgical procedures offer numerous benefits and less risk and discomfort. To see whether minimally invasive spine surgery is appropriate for you, contact our office today to set up an appointment with our lumbar spine specialists.

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