San Francisco Spine Surgeons

How Smoking Affects the Outcome of Spinal Fusion

spinal fusionIndividuals who have suffered a structural abnormality or injury to a segment of the spine, such as a herniated disc, may experience chronic pain that becomes debilitating. In such an instance, spinal fusion may be the logical treatment choice. Fusion involves placing a bone graft of synthetic substitute between two vertebrae (or more, if necessary), and fusing these bones together to limit the degree of movement that can take place. The purpose of limiting joint mobility is to protect the nerves that had been impinged due to the original injury.

If it looks as though a spinal fusion may be in your future, know that the team at San Francisco Spinal Surgeons will assist you through the process. It is our intent to support a smooth transition toward surgery and a comfortable recovery. Healing is an important aspect of the longevity of spinal fusion, and research has discovered a vital point that is important for every patient to know: smoking will present an obstacle to the integration of the new “bone.”

According to studies, a patient who smokes is twice as likely to experience non-fusion than a non-smoking patient. One of the potential causes for this decline in success could be the negative affect that nicotine has on the body. In this instance, it is nicotine’s effect on bone growth. The way that this singular chemical can affect the entire outcome of surgery is by inhibiting vascularization around the bone graft. Without sufficient blood supply and nourishment, the bone simply does not grow. Another study on the effects of nicotine point to a possible anti-inflammatory effect, which is detrimental to healing.

Additional Issues Related to Smoking and Surgery
Aside from affecting the outcome of spinal fusion, smoking has other negative effects on the post-operative process. Even if fusion is successful, there is a concern that the degeneration of spinal discs increases substantially in the patient who smokes. This could contribute to other spinal problems following the repair of the initial injury.

It is our hope to help each of our patients find the comfort and quality of life they seek by resolving chronic neck or back pain. To discuss your treatment options with us, call 415-750-5570.

Posted in: Spine Surgery


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