How to Approach Common Misconceptions of Spine Surgery

The many benefits of spine surgery for definitive pathologies are well researched and scientifically proven. However, despite all of the positive outcomes and evidence to support spine surgery, many patients still believe the misconception that spine surgery doesn’t work or that people are worse off after surgery. So, how does one refute these perceptions? Present the facts.

In 2009, the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery published research that shows patients with degenerative spondylolisthesis and associated spinal stenosis maintain “substantially greater pain relief and improvement in function for four years” post-surgery compared with those with similar diagnoses who were treated non-operatively. Furthermore, a 2008 study in The Spine Journal concluded that patients with focal lumbar spinal stenosis who were treated with surgical intervention self reported an improvement in quality of life that was comparable to that of matched patients who underwent total hip and knee arthroplasty.

Similarly, a recent study published in Spine assessed the long-term, clinical outcomes of patients with anterior cervical discectomy and fusion who were diagnosed with disc herniation, spinal stenosis or DDD. Although the results indicated outcomes were not related to factors including age, gender and number of levels treated, patient-reported success ranged from 85% to 95%.

When one considers this definitive, scientific data, where proper indications are present and studies support surgery, patients should be encouraged, rather than discouraged, by these outcome studies. Certainly every case presents different pathologies and the risk of complication is never eliminated, but with proper diagnosis, care and technique, surgery is an effective and safe solution for neck, leg or back pain.