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Spinal Fusion Complications

The purpose of spinal fusion surgery is to permanently join together two or more bones in the spine to prevent movement between them. Just like all surgeries, spinal fusions have the potential for complications. Fortunately, these complications are not common and should not discourage you from undergoing a spinal fusion if a surgeon believes it can improve your spine-related condition. However, it is always important to understand the risks prior to any procedure. Let’s take a closer look at some of the most common spinal fusion complications.

Most Common Spinal Fusion Complications

Anesthesia Complications

A spine surgeon will administer general anesthesia prior to performing a spinal fusion in order to keep a patient free of pain during the procedure. In rare cases, anesthesia complications can occur and lead to brain damage, stroke, a heart attack, and even death.

Pain From the Bone Graft Site in the Pelvis

Pain at the bone graft site can be significant. This type of bone graft is rarely used.  Dr. Keenen has not had an need to take a bone graft from the pelvis for over 15 years.  Different types of allograft (bone bank bone) are commonly used.


Although spine surgeons take a variety of precautions to reduce the risk of infection, some patients may still develop an infection. Some of the most common symptoms of infections include pain, wounds, fevers, foul smells in the wound, and clear liquid that oozes from the incision.


Another possible spinal fusion complication is known as pseudarthrosis. Pseudoarthrosis occurs when the fusion does not heal, meaning that two or more of the spinal bones do not heal together as intended and fail to stabilize the spine. When this happens, a patient may experience pain or movement known as micromotion.

Persistent Pain

Even though the goal of  spinal fusion surgery is almost always to reduce or alleviate pain, sometimes the spinal fusion is unsuccessful and pain develops, persists, or increases.

Deep Vein Thrombosis

Deep vein thrombosis or DVT arises when blood clots develop in one of the large veins of one or both legs. This condition may occur after a spinal fusion because the body’s clotting mechanism is working too hard to stop bleeding at the surgical site.

Contact Pacific Spine Specialists Today

If you believe are suffering from a painful, spine-related condition, a spinal fusion may be right for you. Dr. Keenen of Pacific Spine Specialists performs minimally invasive spine surgeries which use smaller incisions and leave the strong muscle fiber intact with the spine in order to reduce the risk of spinal fusion complications and ensure a safer procedure with less recovery time.

Call our office today at 503-885-9391 to schedule an appointment so that Dr. Keenen can evaluate your condition and determine whether spinal fusion surgery or another procedure is right for you.