THURSDAY, Dec. 29 (HealthDay News) -- Researchers have
identified six risk factors linked to blindness after spine
surgery, a rare but devastating complication.
Known as ischemic optic neuropathy, or ION, the complication
occurs when the optic nerve located behind the eyeball is injured.
It is estimated to occur in as many as one in 1,000 spine
surgeries. Though rare, it can happen to healthy patients at any
age, according to researchers.
For the new study, investigators gathered information from a
large national database created by the American Society of
Anesthesiologists (ASA) to identify patients who were blinded after
spine surgery and compared the data to patients undergoing similar
spine surgeries from 17 medical centers in North America but who
did not experience vision loss.
The six risk factors associated with blindness or partial
blindness included: being male; being obese; use of a surgical
frame that places the head lower than the heart; the length of the
surgery; amount of blood loss; and the use of certain fluids that
replace lost blood.
"Our research represents the largest study performed on this
complication to date with very detailed data available for
comparison," the study's lead author, Dr. Lorri Lee of the
University of Washington, said in an ASA news release. "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."
The study is published in the January issue of the journal
The University of Maryland Spine Program has more about the
complications of spine surgery.