Low Back Pain and the cost of surgery

by / Tuesday, 15 December 2015 /

Each year, 600-thousand Americans undergo spinal surgery — part of the 30-billion dollars we spend on back pain care. But before you go under the knife, there are some important questions you should ask.

Rick Greenwood thought surgery would relieve his back pain. Instead it left him paralyzed. He developed a blood clot after having a battery-powered stimulator implanted next to his spinal cord.

“My whole focus was getting off pain meds, ’cause it was ruining my life. But did we check it maybe as thorough as we needed to on the side effects? No,” he said.

Rick and his wife Debbie urge others to ask tough questions before surgery.

“Questions would be more about specifically how many surgeries have you done like this? What are the guidelines out there for physicians? What happens if something goes wrong?” she said.

One in every 100 spinal stimulator patients will experience some spinal nerve damage.

“I think people need to be mindful of physicians and surgeons who are well-trained, and to investigate their training,” said Dr. Stephen Tolhurst.

Other questions to ask: Is my surgeon board-certified and fellowship-trained? How long has my surgeon been performing this procedure? What is the success rate? Will anyone assist my surgeon and if so, how are they trained? What are the risks? Are there other non-surgical options?

“I’m hoping that this will help people feel more comfortable in researching and asking the questions. You just gotta hang in there,” said Rick.

He hopes asking the right questions will prevent others from suffering like he did.

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As Published in the Western Michigan News

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