Up In Smoke
Obesity, Smoking Affect Spine Surgery Outcomes
Since January 2002, the AAMC Spine Center has been analyzing data to support what physicians and staff already know but didn’t have numbers to confirm—that obesity and smoking lead to poor surgical outcomes.
Six months after surgery, the Spine Center sends a survey to follow-up with patients. Understanding patient perception and gaining feedback on post-surgical outcomes is critical. The results of this ongoing study were so insightful that orthopedic surgeon Stephen Faust, M.D., and neurosurgeon Thomas Ducker, M.D., were invited to present their findings at the North American Spine Society last fall. In April, they will present their findings at the American Association of Neurological Surgeons’ annual meeting in New Orleans.
While the data show that a variety of factors influence the success of spine surgery, Dr. Faust said that the two primary factors—obesity and smoking—are ones patients can control. “As surgeons, being able to document outcomes is an important part of the treatment process,” said Dr. Faust. When obese patients visit him now, he can point to the data and strongly encourage them to embark on a serious weight-loss program before they attempt surgery. “We realize it’s difficult to lose weight, especially when you’re in pain and not fully mobile, so we recommend the hospital’s weight loss classes (Weigh to Go) as well as the Smoking Cessation Program for those who smoke,” he said. “The Wellness staff is trained to help people with all sorts of medical problems.”
Dr. Ducker said, “The data reinforce the stance that a patient’s overall health condition should be taken into consideration before undergoing surgery.”
Back on Track
When patients are scheduled for surgery in AAMC’s Spine Center, the Center staff receives patient information weeks in advance. If the patients are obese or are smokers, staff will offer to get them “back on track” before the surgery to help ensure a better outcome after surgery.
Lori Brady, R.N., program coordinator for The Spine Center, said her staff helps guide patients to AAMC’s Wellness classes for weight management or to the hospital’s Smoking Cessation Program. “We know the outcomes are better for those whose weight is in the normal range, so we really encourage overweight and obese patients to lose weight before they attempt surgery, or if they do have surgery, to begin a weight loss program as soon as they are able. As for smokers, their risks are reduced even if they stop smoking the day they have surgery. However, the results are even better if smoking is stopped six or more weeks before surgery. We strongly encourage these patients to seek help from the Smoking Cessation Program.”
For more information, call askAAMC at 443-481-4000.