Survey shows patients' trust in spine surgery is lower than in other procedures

Jul 13 2011
Individuals who have a family history of back pain, who lead a sedentary lifestyle or who are approaching middle age have one more reason to embark on an exercise regimen to protect their spine.

That's because physical activity is not only likely to make them feel better, but may also help them avoid spinal surgery, which is a procedure that a recent survey showed many people do not trust.

The study, presented at the recent International Society for the Study of the Lumbar Spine Annual Meeting 2011 in Sweden, found that patients showed less optimism about back surgery than any other type of orthopedic procedure, according to, an information resource for doctors.

A total of 743 patients were interviewed at Toronto Western Hospital in Canada, and the researchers found that 84 percent of individuals who underwent hip surgery and 82 percent of those who had an operation on their shoulder and elbow considered their surgeries to be successful. However, only 68 percent of spine surgery patients said the same, according to the news source.

"Our result [shows that] the top three concerns of patients were complications, success and postoperative recovery," said Y. Raja Rampersaud, MD, who presented the findings, quoted by the website.

He added that among the spine surgery cohort, the top concerns were high risk and uncertainty of the outcome.

The study may provide Americans with an additional boost to perform frequent back stretches and other strengthening exercises in order to avoid back pain. Individuals who are already experiencing neck or back discomfort are also advised to try non-surgical pain management treatments first. These include anti-inflammatory medications, hot and cold compresses and epidural steroid injections.

That said, if back pain has progressed to a more severe state or has become chronic, spine surgery may be unavoidable. However, patients who are considering this type of intervention need not worry, as doctors are increasingly recommending endoscopic procedures.

Minimally invasive spine surgery has several important benefits over traditional open-back fusion. Firstly, the surgeon relies on only a small incision to reach the targeted area and typically uses a laser to vaporize the diseased part of the vertebra or disc. This, in turn, reduces the trauma to surrounding soft and healthy tissues, allowing for a faster healing time and a shorter overall recovery period. In fact, many patients are back on their feet within two weeks, as opposed to months that it may take to recover from an open back surgery.

Endoscopic procedures also carry a lower risk of blood loss, infections and any other peri-operative complications.