Unnecessary back surgery

A study from researchers at The Albert Einstein College of Medicine and  the Department of Psychology, Columbia University say that of “274 patients seen in consultation in a single year, 45 were scheduled for “unnecessary surgery”, [i.e. based upon pain alone]. While these 45 patients experienced pain, they exhibited no neurological deficits, and, based upon review of the X-ray, MR, and/or CT studies showed no significant abnormal radiographic findings. Therefore, there was no clear surgical procedure that would benefit the patient. Nevertheless, spinal surgery, often quite extensive was recommended. Furthermore, an additional 2 patients were scheduled for unnecessary lumbar operations, when in fact they needed cervical surgery.” (1)

Epstein NE, Hood DC. “Unnecessary” spinal surgery: A prospective 1-year study of one surgeon’s experience. Surg Neurol Int 2011;2:83

In our practice, we often see patients who have a diagnosis of herniated discs based on pain in their back and pain in their legs.

Upon a physical examination, we often find that it is not a disc problem but referral pain from a ligament meaning they have a sprain.

This is difficult for people to understand because they see the MRI. After a visit to the orthopedic surgeon or the neurosurgeon, they come in with a recommendation for surgery because MRI revelaed herniation. We have seen patients with discs sticking out as much as 10 millimeters, and that would seem to be what is causing pain, but it is not because it is not pressing on a nerve.

So when we check in the back or neck area we look for trigger points – areas of the body that when we press on them it refers pain somewhere else in the body. You just can’t read an MRI to decide what is going on with a patient, you have to use your hands and do an examination.

If you are interested in pursing Prolotherapy or Platelet Rich Plasma Therapy as an option to pain management with prescription narcotics and steroids – then finding the right doctor is the first step —Contact Dr. Darrow or call 310-231-7000.