(HealthDay News) — Though rare, some patients are at higher risk for perioperative visual loss after spinal fusion surgery, according to a study published in The Spine Journal.

Sreeharsha V. Nandyala, from the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, and colleagues retrospectively evaluated data from 541,485 spinal fusion patients identified from the Nationwide Inpatient Sample database (2002 to 2009) to determine the incidence of perioperative visual loss (POVL) after surgery.

The overall incidence of POVL was 1.9 events per 10,000 cases, the researchers round. Of those who developed POVL, 56.2% underwent surgery for a spinal deformity. 

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Compared with unaffected patients, patients with POVL were significantly younger (average age, 37.6 years vs. 52.4 years). For patients with POVL, length of stay and hospital costs doubled. 

Independent predictors of visual loss were deformity surgery (OR=6.1), diabetes with end organ damage (OR=13.1) and paralysis (OR=6.0).

“Patients undergoing long-segment fusions for deformity and those with certain risk factors should be counseled regarding the risks of POVL,” the researchers wrote.

One author reports financial ties to the medical device industry.


  1. Nandyala SV et al. Spine J. 2014;14(9):1866-1872.