Most Spine Surgeries are Safe with good outcomes — Association of Spine Surgeons of India (ASSI)

ASSI issues a statement to create awareness amongst the public that spine surgery is safe if done by trained and qualified surgeons.
New Delhi : Despite a growing population suffering from back and spinal problems, a large number of people are still not aware about the advances in the field of Spine Surgery. One look at a person paralysed below the neck and confined to the wheelchair for life after a spinal injury in a road traffic accident would give an idea of how devastating the consequences of spinal problems can be.

Unfortunately, there are many myths prevailing in the Indian society related to management of spinal problems. One such common myth is that getting a spinal surgery generally leads to paralysis for life. According to the Association of Spine Surgeons of India (ASSI), there is no rationale behind this myth and moreover getting misled by the myth can have serious consequences.

“Majority of spine surgeries are very safe. The complication rate of routine spine surgery is no more than that of other surgeries like abdominal/cardiac/orthopaedic surgeries. The incidence of increase in permanent neurological deficit (weakness in the muscles), for example, is less than 1% after routine spine surgeries. Some very severe spine problems requiring very complex surgeries may have higher complication rates than routine spine surgeries. However, it would not be proper to have a general conception of the safety of spine surgeries on the basis of any complications arising from such complex surgeries. Such severe spine problems are quite uncommon. Moreover the consequences of not managing them would be far more devastating,” says Dr. Sajan Hegde, President-ASSI, Consultant Spine Surgeon & Head, Department of Orthopaedics, Apollo Hospitals, Chennai.

However only a small percentage of spinal problems require surgery. “Except when red flags are present, spine surgery is required only when a good conservative program fails. In fact the vast majority of spinal problems can be managed conservatively,” says Dr. Ram Chaddha, President Elect - ASSI and Prof & Head, Department of Orthopaedics - K.J. Somaiya Medical College, Sion, Mumbai.

“One interaction with any of the increasing number of patients undergoing spine surgery would clearly make the benefits of undergoing a spine surgery evident. In western countries, recent research suggests that almost 5,00,000 disk surgeries are performed annually. With advances in technology, the outcomes of spine surgeries have improved remarkably. Improved knowledge about the spine and its problems and advances in preoperative planning, technique of surgery, instrumentation, anaesthetic techniques, intra-operative imaging and antibiotic policy as well as intra-operative spinal cord monitoring, blood auto-transfusion and navigation where required, have made spine surgery a lot more safe with acceptable complication rates. It is well established that when a spine surgery is indicated, not undergoing it would have a far higher incidence of the same complications which the common man dreads from a spine surgery,” says Dr. H.S. Chhabra, Secretary-ASSI and Chief of Spine Service & Medical Director, Indian Spinal Injuries Centre, New Delhi.

“While the majority of spine surgeries are very safe to perform, the results can be compromised / disastrous in hands of unaccredited or unqualified surgeons,” warns Dr. Saumyajit Basu, Jt Secretary-ASSI, Consultant Spine Surgeon, Park Clinic and Kothari Medical Center, Kolkata.