Illinois doctors report on a new way to prevent back surgery-related infections

Apr 29 2011
Individuals who experience back pain symptoms are typically advised to try conservative treatments first. However, when these fail, doctors may recommend surgery, which fortunately is becoming increasingly safe thanks to efforts of researchers around the world.

While minimally invasive surgeries tend to carry fewer risks of blood loss or infections than traditional open spine surgery procedures, the risk is still there. It can lead to post-operative complications and significantly decrease the patient's quality of life and duration of recovery.

In response to this danger, doctors from one surgery center in Illinois have tested a new approach to preventing bacterial wound infections in newly operated patients. Over the period of 10 years, they administered an antibiotic called Vancomycin either in a traditional way or using its powdered version directly on the wound site, according to local news source WREX.

At the end of the trial period, the team concluded that infection rates went down from about 3 percent to less than 0.1 percent.

One of the study leaders, spine surgeon Dr. Fred Sweet, pointed out that this represents a tenfold decrease in the number of infections. "It will save this country millions or even billions of dollars and save many thousands of lives a year," he added, quoted by the news provider.

As this and similar studies continue, individuals who experience lower back pain are advised not to delay medical consultation if they want to avoid ending up on the operating table. In fact, there is evidence that prompt undertaking of physical therapy may reduce the risk of future complications, including surgery-related infections, blood loss and scarring.

According to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, some 4.6 million Americans will need back surgery during their lifetimes.