Would You Choose Spinal Fusion Surgery if You Had Other Options?

surgeryMost people have at least one episode of low back pain at some point in their lives. And many, in fact, experience chronic low back pain.  The kind that makes you more than just wince.  The kind that keeps you up all night.  Every night.

If you visit a medical doctor and complain of your back pain symptoms, he or she may recommend spinal fusion surgery to correct the problem. This usually occurs in situations where there is degenerative disc disease, a herniated disc or a severe injury to the spine. Spinal fusion surgery is sometimes recommended to correct scoliosis (curvature of the spine) or other irregular curves in the spine.

What happens during fusion surgery? In a 2 – 12 hour long procedure, under general anesthesia, bone from the patient’s hip, or from a donor, is used to graft two adjacent vertebrae. The graft is put in place so that the disc and joints between them are no longer able to move. The fusion forms a bridge, using bone, screws, rods and pins that link the vertebrae together. This provides stability to the spine and reduces pain. At least that’s the intent of the surgery.

Risks involved? There are more than several: administration of general anesthesia, bleeding, infection, rejection of donor bone, blood clots, stroke, heart attack and nerve damage. Full recovery can take up to a year or even longer. The success rate may actually be lower in patients with diabetes and osteoporosis, those who smoke or are overweight, and those who may have had radiation therapy that included the lower spine.

Obviously there are risks with any surgery, but back surgery patients frequently suffer from Failed Back Surgery Syndrome (FBSS). This occurs when a patient is in the same or worse shape as they were in prior to the surgery.  This means that these patients were better off not having the surgery in the first place.

Even msnbc.com released an article last year pointing to this fact.  The article explains how a study of Medicare patients showed that costlier, more complex spinal fusion surgeries are on the rise — and sometimes done unnecessarily — for a common lower back condition caused by aging and arthritis.   The article also continues to point some factors for the rise in risky and often unnecessary spinal fusion surgeries: Allegations of kickbacks to spine surgeons for using products and questionable financial arrangements to doctors as consultants have plagued the multibillion-dollar industry. One company, Medtronic Inc., reached a $40 million settlement with the U.S. Justice Department in a whistleblower case that included allegations the company paid doctors to use its spine surgery products.

Chiropractic care has shown impressive results in patients with scoliosis, degenerative disc disease or herniated discs. Many patients have avoided surgery altogether after undergoing routine chiropractic care. We believe that it is an alternative that deserves careful consideration when other traditional approaches to back pain have been tried and have failed. Chiropractic adjustments, along with other non-invasive treatment modalities, may make surgery an option that doesn’t even require consideration.   As chiropractors in Augusta GAGeorgia Clinic of Chiropractic, we have successfully treated patients who were told there was no other hope for them other than surgery. The kind of surgery where the risks are rampant and sometimes deadly, and the costs go beyond the actual surgery.   Our patients’ personal stories can be found online here.

“Too much fusion surgery is done in this country and often for inappropriate reasons,” Dr. Charles Rosen, M.D., founder of the Association for Medical Ethics has poignantly said. While complex fusions are needed for some conditions, he said, patients “should not hesitate to get a second opinion.”  His written testimony about what goes on behind the scenes of spine surgeons can be read here from the United States Senate Website .

If chiropractic care can save you from having to undergo surgery, that would should be the best news you could hope for—even more so than hearing that an unnecessary surgery went well.


How Augusta GA resident Glenn Avoided Back Surgery:


The Georgia Clinic of Chiropractic Blog is written by Dr. Mark Huntsman.

Augusta GA Chiropractors Georgia Clinic of Chiropractic provides customized chiropractic services to the Augusta, Martinez, and Evans GA communities. Visit our main website at www.georgia-clinic.com for customized chiropractic in Augusta GA.

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