Visual Loss Following Spine Surgery: What Have We Seen Within the Scoliosis Research Society Morbidity and Mortality Database?

    loading  Checking for direct PDF access through Ovid


Study Design.

A retrospective review of the Scoliosis Research Society (SRS) morbidity and mortality (M&M) database.


The aim of this study was to investigate visual related complications in spinal deformity patients undergoing spine surgery.

Summary of Background Data.

The SRS compiles surgeon-reported complications into an M&M database, tracking postoperative complications including visual loss, neurological deficits, infections, and death. Limited literature exists on postoperative visual complications, a rare but devastating complication following spine surgery.


We utilized the SRS M&M database to determine demographics, perioperative risk factors, and prognosis for visual related complications in spinal deformity patients undergoing corrective spine surgery from 2009 to 2012.


A total of 167,972 spinal deformity patients from 2009 to 2012 were identified with a visual acuity complication (VAC) rate of 0.01%, or 12.5 per 100,000 patients. VAC rates for patients with kyphosis were significantly higher than patients with scoliosis (0.049% vs. 0.010%, P = 0.002) and spondylolisthesis (0.049% vs. 0.005%, P = 0.001). Postoperative visual loss rates significantly decreased from 2010 to 2012 (0.022% vs. 0.004%, P = 0.029). Twenty-one patients identified with VACs had a mean age of 34.8 ± 24.3 years. Two (9.5%) patients had preoperative vision changes, two (9.5%) were diabetic, two (9.5%) had vascular disease, one (4.8%) had a history of thromboembolic disease, and five (23.8%) had hypertension. Extent of VAC was bilateral-partial in four (19.0%), bilateral-total in five (23.8%), unilateral-partial in eight (38.1%), and unilateral-total in three (14.3%) patients. Four (19.0%) patients developed anterior ischemic optic neuropathy, four (19.0%) had posterior ischemic optic neuropathy (PION), five (23.8%) had central retinal artery occlusion, and five (23.8%) developed cortical blindness (CB). Greater than 50% of the VACs occurred on, or before, the first postoperative day. Ten (47.6%) patients recovered complete vision and four (19.0%) improved. All patients with CB and 50% with posterior ischemic optic neuropathy experienced complete resolution.


VACs occur in approximately 12.5 per 100,000 deformity patients, with a rate five times higher in patients with kyphosis. More than 50% of these complications occur within 24 hours postoperatively. Nearly half of these complications resolve completely, and another 19% improve postoperatively.


Level of Evidence: 4

Related Topics

    loading  Loading Related Articles