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Study shows little evidence of benefit for spinal fusion surgery

Posted Apr 23 2010 6:49am
More Medicare patients are having complex back surgery even when there’s often an easier, less risky and less costly fix, according to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The rate of complex fusion surgery for spinal stenosis, which causes lower back pain, increased 15-fold from 2002 to 2007, according to the study.
The study and an accompanying editorial suggest that aggressive marketing by implant makers, and greater physician compensation for high-tech procedures, may be influencing treatment. Meanwhile, taxpayers bear the expense, and patients face increased risks.

There are non-surgical approaches and treatments for spinal stenosis or degenerative disc disease. The symptoms can be treated with exercise, weight loss, chiropractic, and physical therapy. A study in the BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders concluded that distraction manipulation (DM) and neural mobilization (NM) are viable alternative to surgery for patients with lumbar spinal stenosis (LSS), and compares favorably with other non-surgical approaches that have been studied. The study further suggest that “As the efficacy of surgery does not appear to decrease if it is delayed in favor of a non-surgical trial, most patients with LSS should be treated non-surgically for a period of time before considering operation. DM and NM may be one non-surgical option that can be offered to patients.”

Murphy, DR, Hurwitz, EL. Gregory, AA, Clary, R. A non-surgical approach to the management of lumbar spinal stenosis: A prospective observational cohort study. BMC Musculoskelet Disord. 2006; 7: 16.

Deyo, RA, Mirza, SK, Martin, BI, Kreuter, W, Goodman, DC, Jarvik, JG. Trends, Major Medical Complications, and Charges Associated With Surgery for Lumbar Spinal Stenosis in Older Adults. JAMA. 2010;303(13):1259-1265.

Dr. David P. Chen
Chiropractor in Laurel, Maryland
Laurel Regional Chiropractic
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