My orthopedic surgeon has warned me that there's a one in five chance that I'll need a second spine surgery after having the first operation. I don't know if this means I shouldn't have the first operation or not. How should I think about this?
Patients should always be informed of the potential complications after any surgery. A one in five chance of reoperation means 20 per cent of the patients have further problems after the first operation. It also means that 80 per cent have a successful outcome.

There are some factors that predict a greater likelihood of a second operation. For example, younger patients (especially those on workers' compensation) are at the greatest risk of needing a second operation.

Some conditions are more likely to require a second operation. For example, fusion for spinal stenosis has a higher reoperation rate compared to just doing a decompressive procedure. Decompression refers to removing the disc and/or bone around the disc to take pressure off the spinal nerve.

On the other hand, fusion for spondylolisthesis had a better result than decompression. Spondylolisthesis refers to a condition where the body of the vertebral bone slips forward over the vertebra below putting a traction (pulling) force on the spinal nerves.

You may want to review your specific situation with your surgeon. Ask about any risk factors and the usual results for the type of operation recommended for you before making a final decision.