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Spinal Fusion?

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Interesting article today on health care costs. As interventional pain physicians, we see many patients who have received un-needed spinal fusions.  The issue is that these surgeries are very invasive with high complication rates.  They are also famous for overloading the levels above and below the fusion (causing new painful areas).  While we see a few severe patients a year who might benefit, the number of these surgeries performed is likely 10 times what’s needed.  Best to quote the article:

Spinal-fusion surgery

A February 2004 analysis of spinal-fusion surgery published in NEJM concluded that its efficacy for the most common indications remains unclear.

Health : This type of back surgery leads to more complications than other types of spinal surgery.

Cost: Inappropriate spinal-fusion surgeries account for approximately $11.1 billion of waste in health care spending a year. There were over 303,000 spinal-fusion surgeries in 2004, and the average hospital bill is over $34,000, not including professional fees. What’s more, the amount Medicare spends on fusion surgeries has risen 500 percent over a decade and now represents nearly half of the $1 billion that Medicare spends on all spine surgeries.

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Category: Back/lumbar

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