Dr. Bell's Blog

Spinal Fusion Surgery...Is It Really The Answer?

Photo by RaulTopan/iStock / Getty Images
Photo by RaulTopan/iStock / Getty Images

It is estimated the world spinal surgery market will become a $9.3 Billion industry in 2017, this according to a report by Global Industry Analysts. Wow! Logic would say they have become more successful over the years...unfortunately that is not true.  The incidence of back surgeries have exploded in the last 10 years, however, success rates have not followed suit.  The majority of lower back surgeries involve the fusing of 2 or more vertebrae together.  

A recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine compared the success of fusion vs. non-fusion surgeries for those with spinal stenosis.   Without boring you with details, 247 people were involved in the study. The results showed virtually no difference in success rate 2 and 5 years post-surgery in those who had fusion vs. those who had a traditional surgery with no fusion.

What does this mean?

The traditional decompression surgery done for spinal spinal stenosis is called a laminectomy.  In simple terms, it involves simply cutting away the are that is compressing the nerve.  In the spinal fusion surgery, the same this is done in addition to bolting 2 or more bones together.  Here is the problem, your spine is meant to move.  There are 24 movable bones throughout your spine that each do a specific job in providing your body motion.  When that delicate balance is disrupted by bolting 2 or more bones together, there is a major ripple effect. Many time in the years following it will cause the need for more surgery because of the increase stress load placed on adjacent vertebrae. 

So Why Are Fusion Surgeries Still performed?  

That answer is complicated, but it most likely revolves around money. The reimbursement rates for doctors performing a fusion surgery is higher than without the fusion.  Secondly, the other major driving force comes from surgical supply companies who sell the hardware used in the fusion surgery.  Don't get me wrong, there are still instances, especially those involving severe trauma that it is warranted.  It is just done with too much regularity, and now this study has shown that.

Our motto has always been, and always will be Chiropractic First. Drugs Second. Surgery Last.  Most surgical cases, with the exception of those from a severe trauma, are the result of a prolonged degenerative process.  Regular chiropractic care can help prevent this process from starting and progressing.  Stay regular with your adjustments, accompanied by a healthy lifestyle, and you will be well on your way to avoiding such a severe and drastic procedure.

LIVE well.  BE well.