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Smoking, Obesity Risk Factors for Spinal Procedures

Both problems boosted risks linked to back pain

FRIDAY, Feb. 16, 2007 (HealthDay News) -- Smoking greatly increases the risk of needing spinal surgery to treat low back pain and being overweight boosts the likelihood of having postoperative pain and complications after such surgery, U.S. researchers say.

The study of 185 patients who had surgery for non-traumatic back pain found that smokers were 148 percent more likely than nonsmokers to require the surgery.

The researchers also concluded that each increase in body mass index (BMI) of 5 kg/m2 was linked to a 97 percent increased risk of postoperative pain and a 44 percent increased risk of complications.

Smoking did not increase the likelihood of postoperative pain but nearly quadrupled the risk of complications.

The findings were expected to be presented Friday in San Diego at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.

"Obesity and smoking are growing problems worldwide and are major risk factors for many serious diseases," lead author Dr. Kingsley R. Chin, assistant professor of orthopedics at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, said in a prepared statement.

"Our data suggest that obesity can be considered a major risk factor for complications and postoperative pain after spine surgery. In addition, our data on smoking demonstrate that it predisposes patients toward requiring surgical intervention for low back pain," Chin said.

"This study is the latest warning signal about the dangers of smoking and obesity. For patients who are already in these at-risk categories, our study should serve as further incentive to stop smoking and try to maintain a healthy weight," Chin said.

More information

The American Association of Neurological Surgeons has more about low back pain.

SOURCE: American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, news release, Feb. 16, 2007
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