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Smoking Decreases Success of Spine Surgery

Posted Oct 17 2012 12:00am

Guest post by David Cooper

Patients diagnosed with spinal stenosis do better with surgical treatment than with nonsurgical treatment, with the exception of patients who smoke, according to a new study. Doctors are suggesting that patients who smoke should consider quitting before they undergo surgical options for spine pain treatment
Spinal stenosis is the narrowing of the spinal canal in any part of the spinal region. The diagnosis is common in older patients, as the narrowing usually occurs with age as a persons disks become drier and start to bulge. This causes pressure on the spinal cord and can cause pain, cramps, and numbness anywhere in the neck, back, shoulders, and arms.
A recent study published in the journal Spine found that patients who don't smoke have more success from surgery than from nonsurgical treatment. The research team examined information from the Spine Outcomes Research Trial (SPORT), clinical spine surgery trials. In the trials, patients with spinal stenosis were given either surgical or nonsurgical treatment in addition to filling out lifestyle surveys. 

419 patients received surgery and 235 patients underwent nonsurgical treatment. 
For non-smoking patients, results showed more success in treatment with surgery. For non-smokers, it did not matter which treatment they received, the same improvement occurred with either surgical or nonsurgical treatment. 

Smoking has several adverse health affects that have been found to contribute to lower back and spine pain. This is mainly due to the associated high blood pressure and high levels of cholesterol. A potential side effect could thus be the blockage of the blood vessels, which reduces the blood supply to the back and lower spine. This reduction of blood flow may make intervertebral disks and the joints of the spine more prone to damage and when there is damage, heal slower.

Further research is needed to ensure that smoking is the actual reason for smokers to not experience improved results from surgery. However, the researchers suggest that patients who smoke should consider quitting before undergoing surgical procedures, such as  AccuraScope , for the treatment of spinal stenosis.
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