Spinal Fusion Surgery and Workers' Comp
According to a February 24, 2011 article in Businessweek, spinal fusion surgery for chronic low back pain leads to higher rates of permanent disability for worker's compensation patients compared to those who are treated non-surgically.
Researchers in a new study randomly selected 725 people with low back pain treated with fusion surgery and 725 people who received conservative treatment included exercise and physical therapy. The participants were chosen from a pool of worker's compensation patients in Ohio whose on-the-job injuries took place between 1999
and 2001. All of these individuals suffered from chronic low back pain.
The study was completed in 2006. The results revealed that the outcomes in nearly all categories were worse in the surgical group. Only about a quarter of the patients had returned to work after two years, compared with two-thirds of the non-surgical patients. Eleven percent of the surgical patients were permanently disabled, compared with 2 percent of those who did not have surgery.
Interestingly enough, the study found that 85 percent of the spinal fusion patients continued using narcotic pain medication after surgery compared with 49 percent of the non-surgical patients. Those patients who had the surgery were found to have increased their daily narcotic pain medication use by 41 percent.
In the spinal fusion group, 36 percent had complications from the surgery. The re-operation rate was 27 percent in the surgery group. It included three people who underwent four additional operations. Total days off work were also greater in the spinal fusion group (1140 days vs. 316 days).
The study was published in the Feb. 15, 2011 issue of Spine.
If you have suffered a workers’ compensation injury and your doctor has recommended fusion surgery, contact Susan J. Sadow at 770-984-8900. She will help you make the right choice about your medical treatment.