Controversial Trends in Spine Care

I found an excellent link where a group of spine surgeons answered questions about controversial trends. This is a good resource for patients to understand issues if they run into a medical opinion about a procedure that could be unusual or risky. This also gives the patient a basis to ask questions of their medical providers and gauge the answers they get against current accepted medical thinking and of course keeping in mind that every patient case is different. By understanding some of the “solutions” being offered, the patient can ask more detailed investigative questions before they consent to a procedure. It is too easy to be a patient who just says yes without understanding possible risks or consequences as well as financial burdens of treatments that may not be effective.

The surgeons expressed opinions about marketing of new technologies as a solution looking for a problem to solve, rather than focusing on the patient’s needs and what is best; in other words, letting marketing of hardware and implants influence choices in surgeries, or when a procedure carries risks because the providers are not spine surgeons, or the surgical procedure can be compromised because a minimally invasive procedure doesn’t allow enough access to completely fix the problem. Should artificial disc replacements be used next to or combined with fusions? While stem cells are being studied for spine repairs, at this time, stem cell studies have not come far enough for treatment to be able to just inject a damaged spinal disc and expect a miracle.

These are some of the topics they covered. As a patient, always ask questions about benefits and risks of surgical procedures. Get multiple opinions if you can before a decision about major surgery, and you may find different procedures offered. Some surgeries can make a patient worse, so do your best to understand how and why a procedure can help, and why and what happens if it fails, and their success rates specifically for the provider you are choosing in relation to your health status. These are the topics surgeons talk about at conferences where spine surgery leaders present their cases and discuss the results. They also present cases where they have to try to fix something that wasn’t done well in a prior surgery. Knowing this kind of information may help a patient recognize when they have found a good surgeon in whom they can place their trust. I was an advocate for myself for cervical spine surgery and looked for information like this to help inform my decision.

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