The effects of obesity on spine surgery: A systematic review of the literature

Keith L. Jackson, John G. Devine

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

80 Scopus citations


Study Design Literature review. Objective The aim of this literature review is to examine the effects of obesity on postoperative complications and functional outcomes after spine surgery. Methods A review of the relevant literature examining the effects of obesity and spine surgery was conducted using PubMed, Google Scholar, and Cochrane databases. Results Obesity contributes to disk degeneration and low back pain and potentially increases the risk of developing operative pathology. Obese patients undergoing spine surgery have a higher risk of developing postoperative complications, particularly surgical site infection and venous thromboembolism. Though functional outcomes in this population may not mirror the general population, the treatment effect associated with surgery is at least equivalent if not better in obese individuals. This reduction is primarily due to worse outcomes associated with nonoperative treatment in the obese population. Conclusion Obese individuals represent a unique patient population with respect to nonoperative treatment, postoperative complication rates, and functional outcomes. However, given the equivalent or greater treatment effect of surgery, this comorbidity should not prohibit obese patients from undergoing operative intervention. Future investigations in this area should attempt to develop strategies to minimize complications and improve outcomes in obese individuals and also examine the role of controlled weight loss preoperatively to mitigate these risks.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)394-400
Number of pages7
JournalGlobal Spine Journal
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 1 2016


  • Obesity
  • lumbar spine
  • surgical site infection
  • venous thromboembolism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Clinical Neurology


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