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  • Writer's pictureAmanda Sacino, MD, PhD

Peri-Operative Nutrition in Spinal Surgery: Enhancing Recovery and Outcomes


Spinal surgery is a complex procedure with a multitude of factors influencing recovery. Among these, peri-operative nutrition plays a pivotal role. Adequate nutritional support before, during, and after spinal surgery is crucial for optimizing patient outcomes. This article reviews the current evidence regarding peri-operative nutrition in spinal surgery.

Pre-Operative Nutrition

  • Nutritional Assessment: Identifying malnourished patients is essential, as malnutrition can negatively impact recovery. Pre-operative assessments, including BMI, serum protein, and albumin levels, can provide vital information.

  • Nutrition Optimization: Pre-operative nutritional optimization has been shown to reduce complications and enhance recovery. Initiatives such as carbohydrate loading can reduce postoperative insulin resistance.

  • Vitamin D Supplementation: Since vitamin D plays a significant role in bone metabolism, supplementation may enhance spinal fusion outcomes.

  • Malnutrition Screening: Thorough assessment using tools like the Malnutrition Universal Screening Tool (MUST) is advised to identify malnourished patients.

Intra-Operative Nutrition

  • Glucose Management: Intra-operative glucose management is vital to prevent hyperglycemia, which can lead to surgical site infections.

  • Hydration Status: Adequate hydration without overloading is crucial to avoid complications like electrolyte imbalance.

  • Rational Fluid Management: A rational approach to perioperative fluid management is essential for hemodynamic stability.

Post-Operative Nutrition

  • Early Feeding: Early initiation of oral feeding or enteral nutrition supports gut function and decreases the length of hospital stay.

  • Protein Supplementation: Increased protein requirements postoperatively support wound healing and immune function. Tailored protein intake is recommended.

  • Micronutrient Support: Supplementation with micronutrients like zinc and vitamin C can support collagen synthesis and wound healing.

  • Avoiding Malnutrition: Postoperative malnutrition can lead to increased morbidity and delayed recovery. Monitoring and addressing nutritional deficiencies are essential.

  • Perioperative Glucose Control: Maintaining perioperative normoglycemia is crucial to prevent complications.

  • Early Enteral Feeding: Initiating enteral feeding early reduces infection rates and hospital stays.

  • Wound Healing and Nutrition: Nutrition plays a pivotal role in wound healing and anabolism.

  • Vitamin Concentrations and Infection Risk: Adequate serum vitamin concentrations are linked to reduced infection risk.

  • Reducing Infections with Nutrition Support: Specialized nutrition support reduces postsurgical infections.

  • Comprehensive Nutritional Support: Comprehensive support improves outcomes and reduces costs in patients with pressure sores.

  • Eating Assessment Tool: The validity and reliability of the Eating Assessment Tool (EAT-10) is essential for assessing swallowing difficulties.

Special Considerations

  • Obesity: In obese patients, achieving optimal nutritional status without contributing to obesity-related complications is a challenge. A carefully tailored nutritional approach is necessary.

  • Osteoporosis: Patients with osteoporosis may require special attention to calcium and vitamin D supplementation.

  • Importance of Nutrition in Bone Healing: Nutritional factors are crucial for bone healing, particularly in spinal fusion surgery.


Peri-operative nutrition in spinal surgery patients is a multifaceted area requiring comprehensive assessment and intervention. Pre-operative optimization, intra-operative care, and post-operative support all play roles in enhancing outcomes and minimizing complications. Collaborative care involving surgeons, dietitians, and other healthcare professionals is crucial to achieving these goals.


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