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What are the risks of surgery to remove a cyst on the spine?

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Quick Answer

Potential risks of the microdecompression surgery typically performed to remove a synovial cyst of the spine include dural tears, bleeding, infection, nerve root damage and incontinence, as reported Spine-health. Dural tears are small leaks of cerebrospinal fluid that occur after surgery and occur in approximately 1 to 2 percent of surgeries, while other complications are much less common.

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Synovial cysts in the lumbar spine are fluid-filled sacs that occur due to degeneration in the facet joint tissues connecting the vertebrae of the spine, according to Spine-health. These cysts usually occur in the L4-L5 region and cause pain due to swelling and impaired blood flow to the nerves surrounding the spine. Synovial cysts can sometimes be treated nonsurgically through injections of steroids, but surgery is often the only long-term option for treatment. Fusion of the vertebrae affected by the cysts is required in some cases in addition to the typical cyst removal and microdecompression procedure.

Dural tears occur during surgery when the outer covering of the spinal cord is injured, as stated by Spine-health. These tears cause cerebrospinal fluid to leak from the spinal cord and accumulate around the surgical site. However, dural tears rarely have serious long-term effects and do not affect the ultimate outcome of the cyst-removal procedure. In most cases, patients who experience a dural tear are advised to remain recumbent for one to two days after which the leak seals itself.

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