Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Interesting article on spinal fusion outcomes

I happened to run across a study from a few years back (2010) that looked at two groups of patients from Ohio that had similar low back conditions and diagnoses. One group opted to have a spinal fusion surgery while the second group did not have any surgery. The outcomes two years after the surgery are remarkable.

First investigated was the percentage of low back surgery patients that had returned to work vs. the percentage of non-surgery patients returning to work. While 67% of the non-surgery group was back working, only a meager 26% of surgical patients had returned to work! I should mention that this was a study of around 1,450 patients from the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation database. The priority in these cases is to get people back to working condition. The spinal fusion recipients certainly were not obtaining the desired outcomes in this case.

The second aspect of treatment investigated was the percentage of patients taking pain medication. And not just Tylenol or Advil, but opiates that are highly addictive. The surgery group in this aspect saw a 41% increase in the use of these drugs versus patients that elected to pass on surgery. Again, a staggering number!

What can be learned from studies such as these? First, always use major surgery as a last resort to deal with back pain. Indeed, there are cases where it is absolutely necessary and will give the best long-term outcome. But, in many, many cases there are other avenues to rid yourself of pain (such as chiropractic of course!). One last statistic I will give you is that there are over 600,000 back surgeries performed in the US every year. An astounding 400,000 or so of these are major fusion operations. With outcomes such as in the study described above, please carefully consider all options before going under the knife!

If you would like to read more about this study, follow this link.

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