Spinal fusion operations may be needlessly crippling patients: expert

By GRANT McATHUR, HEALTH EDITOR, Herald Sun – September 15, 2016

SURGEONS are being warned to stop routinely undertaking spine fusing operations over fears too many patients are being left needlessly crippled.

A gathering of Australian pain specialists will this weekend be told to scale back their reliance on common lumber fusion operations by visiting US expert Dr Gary Franklin.

It comes as the appropriateness of all spinal surgeries are being reviewed for and clinical relevance by the spinal surgery clinical committee as part of the Medicare Benefits Schedule Review Taskforce.

In the past five years Australian surgeons have performed more than 34,000 stand procedures to fire two or more vertebrae together to prevent any movement between them, a well as thousands of other fusions as part of other spinal operations.

While the operation was designed as a last resort for patients with significant measurable instability in their spinal bones, Dr Franklin will tell The annual gathering of the Faculty of Pain Medicine that most disc-related cases now undertaken in Australia and the US could be better treated with less invasive measures.

“I cannot think of another surgical procedure that has such terrible outcomes,” Dr Franklin said.

“A lot of people have back pain and we just need to learn to use (other) methods of treating it.”




Drue is Managing Partner for The De Angelis Group.

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  1. Not all spinal fusion surgeries have poor outcomes. I suffered for several years with spondololesthesis and spinal stenosis that was very painful, and did not respond well to any other treatments tried. I underwent L4,5 fusion and after a long and painful recovery, finally got relief from the constant lower back pain and radiculopathy. I am now able to resume a normal life without pain. My neurosurgeon was wonderful, and gave me back my life!!

  2. Numerous numbers of patients came to my physical therapy clinic underwent spinal fusion surgery were in bad crippling situations
    Lot of them where being on osteoporosis diagnosis, so the problem developing in other areas in thr body
    I see more complications more crippling and nobody getting attention about general health
    Most cases will be fine with physiotherapy diet and lifestyle changes with vitamins and minerals
    Best health for you

  3. I have had 2 spinal fusions and in worst pain now that ever. Have done everything right and hate I ever had then done. Think the Dr did some nerve damage to my nerves.

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