Spine surgery has become more and more common in the United States. However, clinical trials and studies have shown that surgeries don’t provide significantly better long-term outcomes than non-surgical treatment. So why does unnecessary spine surgery continue to take place?
The choice to undergo spine surgery is serious and shouldn’t be taken lightly. If you’re suffering from back or neck pain and have been recommended surgical treatment, research alternative options first. It’s important to make sure that spine surgery is truly your best option for overcoming your pain.
Factors Contributing to the Popularity of Unnecessary Spine Surgery
Studies show that spine surgery is rarely ever as effective as patients are led to believe it will be. A study of the Ohio Bureau of Worker’s Compensation database showed that 1,450 patients were suffering from disc degeneration, disc herniation, and/or nerve disease. Of these patients, almost 50% underwent spinal fusion surgery while the rest did not. Two years later, 26% of patients who underwent surgery were able to return to work. However, 67% of patients who did not undergo surgery were able to return to work.
Knowing studies simply don’t support the popularity of spine surgery, what could be contributing to its increasing popularity?
Many doctors perform surgery because that’s how they have been trained to deal with spine conditions. Unfortunately, there are also financial reasons for the popularity of unnecessary spine surgery.
One of these incentives often comes in the form of physician-owned distributorships or PODs. A POD is a liaison between medical device manufacturers and hospitals. When a device is successfully marketed to a hospital, the distributorship receives a kickback from the manufacturers of the device. It’s common for physicians to own these types of distributorships, which creates a problem with PODs, because the decision of which devices a hospital will purchase usually falls to physicians and surgeons. In this case, if the physician owns a distributorship, the physician will have a financial incentive to order devices that provide them with a kickback. This could then make the physician or surgeon more likely to recommend unnecessary spine surgery that uses this device.
Because of this, senators from multiple states have requested that the Inspector General investigate the legal validity of PODs.
There are also surgical fees for procedures like decompressions, and the fees range from $600 to $1,000. The more complex the surgery, the more surgeons earn from them.
A high-quality program to rehabilitate a patient’s back can also be very expensive and may not be covered by insurance, while surgery is usually paid for if a doctor approves it.
Some surgeons also genuinely believe that surgical procedures are the best way to treat patients, which contributes to the recommendation of unnecessary spine surgery.
It’s also common for doctors and patients to choose certain approaches, like surgery, simply because they sound better or like they would be beneficial in some way, even if there’s no real evidence for it.
Questions to Ask Before Spine Surgery
While spine surgery is certainly beneficial in some cases, these cases aren’t very common, making spine surgery often unnecessary. The evidence simply does not show that surgery should be happening as often as it does. Because of this, you should make sure that surgery is the best choice for you before undergoing it. The following are some questions you can ask your physician if you’re recommended surgery.
- What kind of operation is it and what will be done?
- Why is the operation necessary?
- What are my risks and benefits of having the surgery?
- Are there other, more conservative, treatment options available?
- What are the risks and benefits of seeking other treatment?
The Discseel® Procedure
Remember, unnecessary spine surgery, and spine surgery in general, has many risks of intra- or postoperative complications, so the decision to undergo surgery should always be taken seriously.
You can also consider The Discseel® Procedure, a non-surgical and minimally invasive procedure known to provide lasting pain relief. The Discseel® Procedure is the best solution for back or neck pain caused by torn or damaged spinal discs, also known as annular tears. It’s the only spine procedure that can successfully treat annular tears, using natural fibrin to seal torn spinal discs and encourage your spinal discs to grow new tissue, completing the healing process.
If you’re ready to stop living with back or neck pain, apply for the Discseel® Procedure today and find out if you’re a candidate!