Infections – Spine Center Atlanta


Surgeons performing back surgery.

Infections After Back Surgery

Failed back surgery syndrome (FBSS) is a blanket term for all forms of moderate to severe pain after any type of spine surgery. Most causes of FBSS are related to structural issues that occur after the surgery, but it’s also possible to have failed back surgery that occurs as a result of recovery. That is the case with FBSS from infections.

Infections And Failed Back Surgery

All surgery carries a risk of infection. Spine surgery is no different. While most patients recover without any infection, a small number of patients do experience infections after back and neck surgery, and in rare cases that can lead to the development of severe pain.

Even for patients with infected wounds, most of those infections are superficial on the surface area of the skin. Treatment may be recommended, but the risk of severe back, neck, or leg pain is low.

Yet issues occur when there is a deep infection. Deep infections of the spine may be rare, but these spinal infections have the potential to cause severe pain and complications that often require an immediate treatment.

Risk Factors And Symptoms Of Spinal Infections After Surgery

Some procedures carry more risk than others. According to research:

  • Longer operations are associated with a higher risk of infection.
  • Most “simple” procedures, like lumbar discectomies, carry a lower infection rate.
  • Adding hardware does increase infection risk slightly.

It is not otherwise clear why some patients are more at risk of infection than others, although overall health, smoking habits, and other lifestyle factors may play a role.

Symptoms of a spinal infection after surgery include:

  • Pain that begins about 2 weeks after the date of the surgery, and builds gradually.
  • Presence of fever, although not present in all illnesses, may be a sign of infection.
  • Wounds generally appear to be hot, swollen, or filled with fluid.

It’s not always easy to tell if pain is due to a spinal infection, or if a different type of failed back surgery syndrome. But diagnosis is possible with CT scans and MRIs, so patients are advised to see their doctor immediately if they show any signs of pain or illness.

Treatment For Infection After Spine Surgery

Your doctor may recommend you first try an antibiotic if you have an infection in the cervical or lumbar area of the spine. You will also be considered for aggressive vitamin supplementation.

But if that does not work, it may be necessary to drain the infection, and possibly surgically remove any foreign bodies that may be contributing to the infection, such as the sutures, any hardware, and pedicle screws.

Most infections are treatable, but immediate treatment is necessary. If you believe you may have an infection of the spine after surgery, and want to learn more about failed back surgery syndrome treatments, please call Spine Center Atlanta today at 404-620-5523.

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