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Potential vitamin D deficiency in spinal surgery patients

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Potential vitamin D deficiency in spinal surgery patients

Spine surgery patients who have low levels of vitamin D or a vitamin D deficiency may experience a slower recovery.

Spine surgery patients who have low levels of vitamin D or a vitamin D deficiency may experience a slower recovery. Researchers found that more than 50 percent of patients they studied who underwent spinal fusion surgery had low levels of vitamin D, and 25 percent were severely deficient. What does vitamin D do? Vitamin D aids the absorption of calcium, so patients who are deficient in vitamin D may have trouble growing new bone. For patients who have undergone spinal fusion surgery, this means it can take longer for vertebrae to fuse and recovery can be delayed. Who is affected? Researchers commonly believed that older patients had lower levels of vitamin D, but to their surprise:

  • the average age of patients was 55
  • 56 percent were female
  • 41 percent were obese
  • 95 percent were Caucasian
  • 25 percent had previously taken vitamin D supplements

What are the risk factors for vitamin D deficiency? If you smoke, are obese, have a disability prior to surgery, and have never taken vitamin D supplements or multivitamins, you could be at risk for a vitamin D deficiency. How can patients increase their vitamin D levels? To ensure an adequate level of vitamin D, spine surgery patients should:

  • get adequate sun exposure (approximately 5 to 30 minutes between 10 am and 3 pm at least twice a week without sunscreen)
  • eat vitamin D-fortified dairy products and other foods
  • take a vitamin D supplement before and after surgery (consult your health care practitioner for correct dosage)
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