A recent report from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality found that there are 27 million adults who suffer from back problems. This population spends around $30.3 billion for health and medical treatment, ranging from chiropractor visits, pain management and physical therapy, and other non-invasive therapies.
However, a major chunk of money is invested in spine surgery operations. Not only is spine surgery costly, but some forms of spinal surgery include advanced spinal surgery technologies and thus are are very complicated, especially when involving the fusion of two or more vertebrae. As per the study published in July, spine surgical operations have increased by eightfold in just 15 years.
Rapid Increase in Spine Surgery Operations in the U.S.
Spine surgery is booming rapidly. Every year, around 500,000 Americans undergo surgery for lower back problems alone. According to the findings of Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, people spend more than $11 billion every year on spine surgeries. Unfortunately, spine surgery does not always provide much desired relief.
Spine and back operations are successful for those who suffer from serious structural diseases or problems. However, spine surgery may not be an ideal treatment option for most people. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, surgery is successful for fewer than 5 percent patients.
However, this ultimately depends on the spine surgeon, the patient’s condition, and the prescribed treatment. One New Jersey spine surgeon, Dr. Joshua Rovner is a great model in orthopedic medicine, as he advocates spine surgery as a last resort for his patients.
Pinpointing the Sources of Back Pain
Surgery must be conducted only if a doctor can locate the structural cause of your pain. Surgery is effective for conditions such as deformity, infections, spinal tumors, or nerve damage. You can also undergo a surgery if your spine is weakened by diseases or fractures, narrowing of spinal column that causes weakness, pain, tingling and numbness in legs along with back pain, or persistent leg pain caused by spinal stenosis. Even in these cases, seeking a second opinion is a good idea.
Herniated or ruptured disks can also be treated successfully with surgery. However, surgery is unnecessary in this case too. Many people have ruptured or herniated disc problems, but most of them do not know about it. More than 80 percent of patients get better in 6-12 weeks without undergoing surgery, Johns Hopkins report says. In extreme cases, herniated disc can cause loss of bladder and bowel control due to its pressing against nearby nerves. Surgery is the only method to get relief from this condition.
If back pain is your only complaint, do not correct it through surgery. But, unfortunately, many patients with simple back pain undergo surgery for getting relief.
Different Types of Spine Surgeries
Some of the different types of spine surgeries that are most common include:
- Spinal fusion surgery
- Disc replacement
- Interlaminar Implant
Discectomy is the removal of herniated portion of a disc. Surgery is conducted for getting relief from irritation and inflammation of a nerve. Laminectomy is the removal of bone that overlay the spinal canal. Spinal fusion is the permanent connection of two or more bones in your spine. It is done for providing stability to a spinal fracture. Artificial discs are implanted between two backbones in your lower back. This is helpful for maintaining the space between.
All surgeries carry some degree of risk. General complications of spine surgery are:
- Heart attack
- Blood clots
- Reactions to anesthesia
- Nerve damage
- Recurrent disc herniation
- Loss of bowel or bladder control
According to the opinion of Spine Society of North America, spinal fusion surgery must be adopted as the last resort for patients. You should try some other treatment options if you have simple back pain. In such cases, you can try pain relievers, gentle activities, heating pads, ice packs, etc.
If your problem is really complicated and your doctor recommends surgery, it is always better to seek a second opinion. Back pain is miserable, aggravating and even agonizing. But, it becomes an emergency very rarely. So, you have enough time to work with your doctor. Therefore, you will get enough time to take the right decision.