Published online Apr 18, 2015. doi: 10.5312/wjo.v6.i3.351
Peer-review started: January 24, 2015
First decision: February 7, 2015
Revised: February 12, 2015
Accepted: March 5, 2015
Article in press: March 9, 2015
Published online: April 18, 2015
Complications associated with prone surgical positioning during elective spine surgery have the potential to cause serious patient morbidity. Although many of these complications remain uncommon, the range of possible morbidities is wide and includes multiple organ systems. Perioperative visual loss (POVL) is a well described, but uncommon complication that may occur due to ischemia to the optic nerve, retina, or cerebral cortex. Closed-angle glaucoma and amaurosis have been reported as additional etiologies for vision loss following spinal surgery. Peripheral nerve injuries, such as those caused by prolonged traction to the brachial plexus, are more commonly encountered postoperative events. Myocutaneous complications including pressure ulcers and compartment syndrome may also occur after prone positioning, albeit rarely. Other uncommon positioning complications such as tongue swelling resulting in airway compromise, femoral artery ischemia, and avascular necrosis of the femoral head have also been reported. Many of these are well-understood and largely avoidable through thoughtful attention to detail. Other complications, such as POVL, remain incompletely understood and thus more difficult to predict or prevent. Here, the current literature on the complications of prone positioning for spine surgery is reviewed to increase awareness of the spectrum of potential complications and to inform spine surgeons of strategies to minimize the risk of prone patient morbidity.
Core tip: This review addresses the complications of prone positioning for spine surgery, which is an important and relatively underrepresented topic in the literature. Here, we address the wide range of complications by system, covering the most common complications, current understanding of pathophysiology, and strategies for prevention. Individual cases of very rare complications are also addressed. This article provides increased awareness and understanding of the risks of prone positioning, which is important for patient morbidity.