Spinal Surgery

Most spinal surgery is elective and therefore only you can make the final decision as to whether it is right for you. You need to be comfortable that you understand the risks, benefits, limitations and expected long term outcome of surgery.
For single level minimally invasive surgery the incision is generally less than 25mm. The average length of inpatient stay is two nights post-op, although patients may leave the day after surgery if comfortable.


All surgical procedures are associated with risk. To exhaustively list all the potential complications is impossible. In general the overall risk of a major adverse event from spinal surgery is very low.


There are two major risk categories:

  • GENERAL– This is the risk faced by most people undergoing a general anaesthetic. It includes, but is not limited to, blood clots in the legs (and lung embolism), allergy to drugs, heart attack, lung infection or collapse. These are all rare but may be very serious if they occur.
  • SPECIFIC – These are risks more specific to spinal surgery. These include, but are not limited to, dural tear (this is a hole in the lining of the nerve or spinal cord– this may allow leaking of spinal fluid, causing wound breakdown and headaches), blood clot (this may cause compression of the spinal cord or nerves leading to pain and weakness), nerve or spinal cord injury (this may lead to weakness, numbness, incontinence, and impotence), and infection.
    The likelihood of one of the above complications occurring is higher than that for the general complications, however the consequences are usually less substantial and are often reversible with further treatment. Any concern regarding any specific risk should be addressed directly to Dr Little.

Failure to adequately resolve pre-operative pain is always possible and occurs in about 5% of cases.



All disc protrusions carry a lifetime risk of recurrence after surgery. This is about 7%. The most vulnerable time for recurrence is in the weeks after surgery.