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Thursday, February 21st 2008

Spine Patients Pay A Lot And Get A Little

I’m shocked, shocked I say! I’ve made this point before but treatments for back pain simply are a crap shoot. Too many patients simply never get better.

Back Pain, Quick Call A Surgeon!

Surgeons who specialize as orthopedic spine surgeons average more per hour than any other physician. But even as spending to treat back pain increases a new study says Americans get little in return.

[S]pending on spine treatments in the United States totaled nearly $86 billion in 2005, a rise of 65 percent from 1997, after adjusting for inflation. Even so, the proportion of people with impaired function because of spine problems increased during the period, even after controlling for an aging population.

The report is the latest to suggest that the nation is losing its battle against back pain, and that many popular treatments may be ineffective or overused.

“I think the truth is we have perhaps oversold what we have to offer,” said Dr. Richard A. Deyo, a physician at the Oregon Health and Science University in Portland and a co-author of the report. “All the imaging we do, all the drug treatments, all the injections, all the operations have some benefit for some patients. But I think in each of those situations we’ve begun using those tests or treatments more widely than science would really support.”

I worked in a huge ortho spine practice all through high school and I can vouch for the above quote. I say this even though I’m on neurosurgery right now — what spine surgeons are offering is half fluff. I would personally be real sure what I was doing before getting decompressed fused…no matter how terrible my back pain was.

The study is published in JAMA.