Treatment and Complications

Spinal Infection and Complications

Lead Author(s): 

Sigurd H. Berven, MD
Matthew D. Hepler, MD

Supporting Author(s): 

Sylvia I. Watkins-Castillo, PhD

Superficial infections are frequently managed with oral antibiotics, while deep infections typically require surgical debridement (removal of dead, damaged, or infected tissue) and IV antibiotics. A small percentage of infections may be complicated by large soft tissue defects and compromised host immune systems, requiring extensive and prolonged treatments and surgical procedures.

Although major complications are rare, they are more likely to be seen in patients with complicated cases and have been reported to occur in as many as 28% to 32% of adult deformity cases.1 These include complications that are device-related (2% to 5%), neurologic (1% to 2%), vascular (3% to 4%), medical (>10%), stroke (2%), and include death (0.8%).1,2 Sentinel events (relatively infrequent, clear-cut events that occur independently of a patient's condition), including bowel or peritoneal injury, neurovascular injury, wrong site surgery, and retention of a foreign body, occur in 0.8/1,000 cases.3  

Both major complications and sentinel events frequently require further medical interventions, resulting in longer hospitalizations, greater costs, and increased mortality.

  • 1. a. b. Cho SK, Bridwell KH, Lenke LG, et al: Comparative analysis of clinical outcome and complications in primary versus revision adult scoliosis surgery. Spine 2012;37(5):393-401.
  • 2. Goz V, Weinreb JH, Schwab F, et al: Comparison of complications, costs, and length of stay of three different lumbar interbody fusion techniques: An analysis of the Nationwide Inpatient Sample database. Spine J 2014;9:2019-2027.
  • 3. Marquez-Lara A, Nandyala SV, Hassanzadeh H, et al: Sentinel events in lumbar spine surgery. Spine 2014;39:900-905.


  • 2014

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