Vitamin D…Can it Speed Your Recovery Following Surgery???

A successful and speedy recovery is something we all hope to have after a serious surgery. Researchers have recently discovered low levels of vitamin D in a group of patients undergoing spinal surgery, which may delay their recovery.

Vitamin D helps calcium absorption and is needed for bone growth. Vitamin D deficiency can lead to osteomalacia, resulting in softer and weaker bones. Osteomalacia also interferes with new bone formation, which can be very problematic for someone undergoing spinal fusion surgery, where bones have to fuse together in order to span an internal gap.

Jacob M. Buchowski, MD and his team of researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis recently completed a study of 313 patients who were undergoing spinal fusion surgery. Of this group, 44 percent were male and 56 percent were female; the average age of was 55. Analysis indicated that more than half had inadequate levels of vitamin D, including 25 percent who were severely deficient.

Low vitamin D levels are relatively common in older popultations–this is one of the reasons the RDA for adults over 70 is approximately 30 percent higher than the standard recommendation. In this study,  however, it came as a surprise that the patients most likely to have inadequate levels of the bone-building vitamin were younger. “We rarely think about deficiency in younger patients,” Buchowski says. “More of the older patients in this study had a history of taking supplements, and as a result, they had less risk for vitamin D deficiency than younger patients.”

“Our findings suggest it may be worthwhile to screen surgery patients for vitamin D,” says Buchowski. He feels as if patients with insufficient levels of vitamin D could benefit from taking 50,000 international units of the vitamin once a week for eight weeks before a surgery. This extra boost in vitamin D may help facilitate recovery after spinal fusion surgery.

Based on the results of the survey, Buchowski and his colleagues are recommending that patients that are waiting to have a spinal fusion surgery take a vitamin D supplement prior to and following surgery. It is recommended to choose a vitamin D that is in an Isotonic form. Along with all the other great benefits this vitamin has to offer, that may also be good advice for those of us who are hoping to avoid spinal fusion surgery–or any other kind.

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