Only 26% of back surgery patients return to work!

Back surgery may backfire on patients in pain


A new study in the journal Spine shows that in many cases surgery can even backfire, leaving patients in more pain.

Researchers reviewed records from 1,450 patients in the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation database who had diagnoses of disc degeneration, disc herniation or radiculopathy, a nerve condition that causes tingling and weakness of the limbs. Half of the patients had surgery to fuse two or more vertebrae in hopes of curing low back pain. The other half had no surgery, even though they had comparable diagnoses.

After two years, just 26 percent of those who had surgery returned to work. That’s compared to 67 percent of patients who didn’t have surgery. In what might be the most troubling study finding, researchers determined that there was a 41 percent increase in the use of painkillers, specifically opiates, in those who had surgery.

The study provides clear evidence that for many patients, fusion surgeries designed to alleviate pain from degenerating discs don’t work, says the study’s lead author Dr. Trang Nguyen, a researcher at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine.

Comment: I had back surgery in December of 2004 (12/28/04). I was off work for 3 weeks. (Bragging! I broke my neck in 1987. I've had neck surgery twice (the second time both the front and the back at the same surgery event (an orthopedic surgeon did the front, I was flipped over; and a neurosurgeon did the back). Each surgery also involved harvesting bone from my pelvis (the second surgery involved harvesting bone from the front of my pelvis AND harvesting bone from the back of my pelvis). I'm still working!

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