Vision Loss Risk Factors Identified in Spine Surgery

Vision Loss Risk Factors Identified in Spine SurgeryNew research has identified six risk factors that link spine surgery to blindness following the procedure, HealthDay reports.

The occurrence, known as ischemic optic neuropathy, or ION, occurs when the optic nerve located behind the eyeball is damaged, and is estimated to occur in as many as one in 1,000 spinal procedures performed. The condition can happen to any patient at any age, regardless of age or any preexisting factors.

To conduct the study, a team of scientists collected information from a large national database developed by the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) in order to isolate patients who were blind after spinal surgery. The researchers then compared the data to patients receiving similar surgeries from 17 hospitals throughout North America who did not experience the rare occurrence.

The six risk factors found to have been linked to blindness after spinal surgery included being male or obese, as well as the use of a surgical frame that keeps the head lower than the heart. The length of the surgery was also linked to blindness, as well as the amount of blood loss and the use of certain fluids to replace blood that was lost.

"Our research represents the largest study performed on this complication to date with very detailed data available for comparison," said the study's lead author, Dr. Lorri Lee of the University of Washington. "Our identification of the six major risk factors for ION hopefully means that some of these risk factors can be modified in certain situations, with the potential to decrease the risk of blindness after major back surgery."

According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, spinal surgery complications can be very serious, and may involve subsequent pain and impairment that could result in more surgeries. All possible complications should be discussed with a physician prior to major back operations.