Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Low vitamin D common in spine surgery patients

Deficiency may hinder recovery

A new study indicates that many patients undergoing spine surgery have low levels of vitamin D, which may delay their recovery.

In a study of 313 patients undergoing spinal fusion surgery, orthopaedic surgeons at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis found that more than half had inadequate levels of vitamin D, including one-fourth who were more severely deficient.

The researchers report their findings today at the 26th Annual Meeting of the North American Spine Society. The study was chosen as one of the meeting's best papers.

"Our findings suggest it may be worthwhile to screen surgery patients for vitamin D," says Jacob M. Buchowski, MD, the study's principal investigator. "We think those with insufficient levels of vitamin D may benefit from taking 50,000 international units of the vitamin once a week for eight weeks before surgery as this may help the recovery after spinal fusion surgery."

Vitamin D helps with calcium absorption, and patients with a deficiency can have difficulty producing new bone. They are at risk for a condition called osteomalacia. Unlike osteoporosis or osteopenia, which result from low bone mineral density, osteomalacia interferes with new bone formation.

All the patients in the study had spinal fusion surgery. In that procedure, surgeons remove discs between two or more vertebrae. The bones in the spine are then attached with hardware and treated with growth factors. As the spine heals, new bone begins to form, and the vertebrae fuse together.

Buchowski became aware of the vitamin D problem when a patient in her 40s experienced a slow recovery after spinal fusion surgery.

"I was examining her and trying to figure out why the vertebrae didn't fuse," he says. "She mentioned that she had recently been diagnosed with vitamin D deficiency, and it was like a 'light bulb' went off."

As a result, Buchowski, an associate professor of orthpaedic surgery and of neurological surgery, and his Washington University colleagues at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, started routinely screening spinal fusion surgery patients for vitamin D deficiency.

Low vitamin D levels are known to be common in elderly patients. Surprisingly in this study, the patients most likely to have inadequate levels of the bone-building vitamin were younger.

"We rarely think about deficiency in younger patients," Buchowski says. "More of the older patients in this study had a history of taking supplements, and as a result, they had less risk for vitamin D deficiency than younger patients."

Although an earlier study had shown inadequate vitamin D levels in 43 percent of patients undergoing orthopedic procedures, this is the first look solely at spine surgery patients.

Those in the study averaged 55 years of age, 56 percent were female, 41 percent were obese, and 95 percent were white. One quarter of the participants had taken vitamin D supplements in the past.

The researchers found that the main risk factors for inadequate vitamin D were smoking, obesity, disability prior to surgery and never having taken vitamin D or multivitamin supplements.

As a follow-up, Buchowski and his colleagues are planning a study to see whether there is a link between low vitamin D and poor outcomes following spinal fusion. In the meantime, he's recommending that patients having orthopedic surgery ensure they're getting enough vitamin D.

Sun exposure is one of the best ways to get the body to produce vitamin D. He also recommends that if they are not getting enough vitamin D, patients consume dairy products fortified with the vitamin and begin taking a vitamin D supplement prior to and following surgery.

"Vitamin D is inexpensive and easily stored in the body," Buchowski says. "My hunch is that having adequate levels may help the spine fuse following surgery."

To maintain bone health and normal calcium metabolism, the Institute of Medicine established a recommended daily allowance (RDA) for vitamin D of 600 international units. Buchowski says patients should work with their doctors to determine what supplemental level is appropriate for them.

Stoker GE, Buchowski JM, Bridwell KH, Lenke LG, Riew KD, Zebala LP, Vitamin D status of adults undergoing surgical spinal fusion. Presented Nov. 3 at the 26th Annual Meeting of the North American Spine Society in Chicago, Ill.

Washington University School of Medicine's 2,100 employed and volunteer faculty physicians also are the medical staff of Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children's hospitals. The School of Medicine is one of the leading medical research, teaching and patient care institutions in the nation, currently ranked fourth in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. Through its affiliations with Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children's hospitals, the School of Medicine is linked to BJC HealthCare.

More than 3,200 spine professionals will meet at the NASS 26th Annual Meeting in Chicago, Nov. 2-5, 2011, at the McCormick Place Lakeside Center. NASS is a multidisciplinary medical organization dedicated to fostering the highest quality, evidence-based and ethical spine care by promoting education, research and advocacy. NASS is comprised of more than 6,700 members from several disciplines including orthopedic surgery, neurosurgery, physiatry, neurology, radiology, anesthesiology, research, physical therapy and other spine care professionals. For more information, visit and find NASS on NASS Facebook and NASS Twitter

Jim Dryden | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Diagnoses: When Are Several Opinions Better Than One?
19.07.2016 | Max-Planck-Institut für Bildungsforschung

nachricht High in calories and low in nutrients when adolescents share pictures of food online
07.04.2016 | University of Gothenburg

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Oasis of life in the ice-covered central Arctic

24.10.2016 | Earth Sciences

‘Farming’ bacteria to boost growth in the oceans

24.10.2016 | Life Sciences

Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

24.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

More VideoLinks >>>