Risks of surgery
Complication Leading To Odds
Nerve Root Injury Pain/weakness/numbness in the arm / leg. The impairment may be temporary or permanent. 1 in 60
Damage to the nerves supplying the bladder (cauda equina syndrome) No control or reduced control passing urine or faeces. Weakness and/or numbness in the legs. 1 in 100
Tear of the lining of spinal canal (dura) Headache and a leaky wound. Occasionally a second operation to repair the tear (1 in 300). 1 in 20
Infection Wound discharge, fever and chills. 1 in 50
Wound swelling (Seroma) Fluid collection under the skin. Majority amenable to aspiration alone.  Occasionally wound is re-opened to drain. 1 in 60
Recurrent disc herniation Recurrence of pain requiring second operation either within a few days or at any time in the future. 1 in 20
Respiratory Need for support of ventilation. Occasionally emergency operation to relieve the obstruction (1 in 50) 1 in 30
Oesophageal (gullet) injury Difficulty with swallowing. Generally temporary. Re-operation to repair the oesophagus may be needed (1in 100) 1 in 12
Recurrent laryngeal nerve injury Hoarse voice – temporary (common) or permanent (rare). 1 in 20
Vertebral artery injury Bleeding 1 in 300
Failure of bone healing (non-union) Persistent pain. Recurrence of deformity. 1 in 6
Bone graft donor site pain Pain 1 in 8
Hardware breakage / loosening, Dislocation of implant Pain. Recurrent deformity. Probable second operation to re-position or remove any implant. 1 in 100
Pedicle screw malposition Weakness / numbness / bleeding / lung injury 1 in 25
Intestine (gut) blockage (ileus) Distended abdomen, vomiting and constipation. 1 in 100
Retrograde ejaculation Infertility. 1 in 75
Spinal cord injury Loss of arm and leg function: Quadriplegia / Paraplegia – permanent. Quadriparesis / Paraparesis – may be temporary or permanent. 1 in 250

Conditions affecting
the spine