What are the Risks of Open Back Surgery?

Open back surgery, a traditional approach to treating various spinal conditions, involves making a large incision along the spine to access the affected area. While this method has been successful in treating many patients, it is important to be aware of the potential risks and complications associated with the procedure. Here, we explore some of the most common risks of open back surgery.


One of the primary risks of any surgical procedure is infection. In the case of open back surgery, bacteria may enter the incision site or the spinal area, potentially leading to serious complications. To minimize the risk of infection, surgeons take various precautions, such as sterilizing equipment and administering antibiotics. However, it is crucial for patients to follow postoperative care instructions and watch for any signs of infection, such as redness, swelling, or fever. 

Bleeding and Blood Clots

Excessive bleeding can occur during or after open back surgery, potentially leading to complications such as blood loss or hematoma (a collection of blood outside the blood vessels). Additionally, patients may be at risk for developing blood clots, which can travel to other parts of the body, such as the lungs or brain, posing life-threatening risks. To mitigate these risks, surgeons carefully monitor blood loss during the procedure and may prescribe blood-thinning medications after surgery. 

Nerve Damage

During open back surgery, there is always a risk of nerve damage due to the close proximity of delicate spinal nerves. This damage may result in numbness, weakness, or pain in the affected area, and in some cases, may be permanent. Surgeons take utmost care to avoid nerve damage, using advanced techniques and imaging technology to minimize the risk.

And that’s just the start. When possible, you want to opt for minimally invasive surgery. This gives you a greater chance of achieving the intended result without any serious side effects. 

Virginia Spine Specialists is an award-winning, minimally invasive spinal care practice with locations in Fredericksburg, VA and Manassas, VA. We also serve these Northern and Central Virginia locations: Haymarket, Gainesville, Culpepper, Front Royal, Spotsylvania, Stafford, Colonial Beach, Tappahannock and Lake Anna.