Your Weight May Affect Your Spine Surgery Success

If your doctor tells you that you need surgery for spinal stenosis (a condition in which your spinal canal narrows, which can lead to pain and weakness), there are many factors to consider. What are the risks of the surgery? How long will it take to recover?

Obese Patient with DoctorYou can learn more about spinal stenosis in our Spinal Stenosis Center.

A recent study explored another potential concern for people considering surgery for spinal stenosis—the effects of your body mass index (BMI) on the outcome of the surgical procedure. The study, “Obesity is associated with inferior results after surgery for lumbar spinal stenosis: a study of 2633 patients from the Swedish Spine Register,” appears in the journal Spine. It was published online ahead of print in September 2012.

How the Study Was Done
The researchers were interested in whether obesity affected the outcome of lumbar spine surgery used as a treatment for spinal stenosis. Relying upon data from the Swedish Spine Register, the study authors looked at patients who had surgery for lumbar spinal stenosis between January 1, 2006 and June 30, 2008.  They then used statistical models to understand the association between a patient’s BMI and his or her surgical outcomes.

Of the 2,633 patients included in the study, 31% were of normal weight, 46% were overweight, and 23% were obese. The results showed that on average, all 3 of these weight groups showed significant improvements following their spinal stenosis surgery.

However, 2 years after surgery, having a higher BMI was associated with a higher likelihood of being dissatisfied with treatment results.  Following surgery, people who were obese had a lower quality of life than people in the other 2 groups. Differences between the normal weight group and patients in the overweight group were not significant.

The study authors argue that their results demonstrate that though obese patients with spinal stenosis did see improvements in their condition following surgery, they experienced higher dissatisfaction and poorer post-surgical outcomes than people who were not obese.

What This Spinal Stenosis Surgery Study Means for You
The decision to have surgery to treat your spinal stenosis takes careful consideration of the risks and benefits. Make sure you understand the treatments your doctor is recommending, and ask questions to help you make an informed decision. If you are overweight or obese, ask your doctor to help you create a plan to lose weight prior to your surgery. Not only is it a healthy lifestyle choice, it may have an effect on the outcome of your spinal stenosis treatment.

Updated on: 03/22/16
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