Does spinal surgery backfire on patients in pain?

Pain in the back A large (1450 patient) study, this time published in the journal Spine (2011), provides evidence that for many patients, fusion surgeries designed to alleviate pain from degenerating discs fails. This time researchers analyzed a large workers compensation (Ohio) insurance database.   Included in the study were 1,450 low back patients with a combination of either disc degeneration, disc herniation, or radiculopathy (weakness or numbness down the legs). Half of the patients had complex back surgery (fusion) and the other half (comparable diagnosis) did not have surgery. Two (2) years after surgery, the need and use of drugs was analyzed, and despite patient’s hopes, the spinal surgery group (sometimes $80,000 for complex spinal surgery) needed over a 40% increase in opiate painkiller medication, compared to those who did not have surgery.  And only 26 percent of the surgery group was able to return to work compared to 67 percent of the group who did not have surgery.

Information for this article is based on a 2011 study upon which MSNBC wrote, “Back Surgery May Backfire on Patients in Pain”

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