Wall Street Journal Reports Overuse of Spine Surgery
Personal injury lawyers are often confronted with victims who have back injuries. Neck (cervical), Mid-back (thorasic), and Low-Back (lumbar/Sacrum), are all regions of the back that get injured. The normal course of treatment ranges from chiropractic and physical therapy to the less conservative approach of injections and surgery. As the Journal reports, spine surgery has exploded in the last decade. The research of Medicare records indicated that certain hospitals and private surgery groups have unusually high percentages of surgeries. The bulk of the billing is in the hardware that is implanted. Pedicle screws, cages and other hardware make up the bulk of the expense.
In 1997, it cost Medicare $343 Million and in 2008 $2.24 Billion for spinal fusion surgery. The concern of the Reporting, was the conflict of interest inherent in the physician and medical equipment supplier as many of the doctors mentioned receive commissions/kickbacks/or royalties depending on how one sees the relationship. Some of the doctors have been paid millions to use the equipment. The largest supplier in the US is Medtronic whom the article focuses on. The disturbing part of the article, however, is the poor outcomes and extreme risks that appear in most patients. For example, the treatment of the condition spinal stenosis requires a spinal fusion of vertebra. This is called a complex fusion. The report indicates patients have a 3 times greater propensity for serious or life threatening complications than a simple decompression surgery. Those who undergo such a major operation were 1.) 41% more likely to be hooked on pain killers, 2.) less likely to return to work (than non-operated patients), and 3.) over 27% had to have another operation, and 4.) their rate of disability was 5 times greater than those who refrained. Now, these numbers could simply be skewed from the basic understanding that those who underwent such a surgery may have had more extreme injuries and therefore the comparison is unjust. It also reported that doctors who perform said surgeries can make up to $12,000 per surgery, so the incentive to do such operations is obvious. The most disturbing revelation was the comparisons of MRI’s of patients by Doctors at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine that showed of 725 films reviewed the spines “were perfectly normal.”
Obviously, from an injury standpoint, we believe that car accident victims do deserve treatment options, but it is always prudent to make such drastic alternative your last choice. If you have been injured and suffered a permanent back injury, call us today as we work with the top back specialists in Las Vegas. 702-382-9797