ANCHOR LEAD: WHO REALLY BENEFITS FROM SURGERY ON THE SPINE? ELIZABETH TRACEY REPORTS
Herniated discs are a very common source of back pain and disability. A recent study compared surgery with more conservative therapies and found that after five years, there was no difference between the two groups, suggesting that the risk of surgery probably isn’t worth it. Marc Hungerford, an orthopedic surgeon at Johns Hopkins, says for a subset of patients that just isn’t true.
HUNGERFORD: Most of what a spine surgeon does is figure out who’s going to benefit from surgery and who is not. If you take everybody with a herniated disc that’s a huge number of people. Ninety percent of those people are much better off non operative, but 10% of those people who come in and have pain in their foot and weakness in their quadriceps, weakness in their calf, and you operate on them and they’re better the next day, versus you treat them medically and they don’t get better for a year, or maybe never, that’s a big benefit from surgery. :32
Hungerford says careful, conservative evaluation is key. I’m Elizabeth Tracey reporting