Low back pain has become a very common occurrence nowadays with over 12 million Americans visiting their doctors with complaints of chronic back pain every year; while over a 100 million visit a chiropractor.
Problems with the spinal column can cause devastating effects on a person’s life. It deprives them of their mobility and flexibility. Even everyday activities become a challenge in some cases. With so many of such cases and the advancements in medical science, it is ironic to see a huge number of people being misdiagnosed and prescribed spinal surgery as the only treatment.
Spinal surgery itself carries around a 20% risk of a failure. Failed spinal surgeries often result in no improvement, worsened pain, and sometimes, even death.
General Physicians, spine specialists and orthopedic surgeons have proven in many cases that they have no clue as to the root causes of back problems. In a review of low back-pain causes, Andrew Frank, a physician in Rheumatology and Rehabilitation concluded ‘Up to 85% of patients with low back pain cannot be given a definitive diagnosis because of the poor associations between symptoms, signs, imaging results and pathological findings’ (BMJ, 3 April 1993).
Risks Associated with Specific Surgical Procedures
Apart from incorrect diagnoses, each type of spinal surgery procedure carries its own set of risks:
A laminectomy requires removal of parts of a bone, bone spurs and ligaments from the back with the aim of relieving pressure on spine nerves. This procedure can result in a less stable spine, leading to another surgery.
A spinal fusion procedure is the most common type of surgery carried out for back pains. A surgeon joins the vertebrae together to restrict movement between the spinal bones. This in turn limits the stretching of spine nerves.
An incomplete fusion requires the patient to undergo another surgery. Smoking on the other hand, increases the chances of an incomplete fusion to occur.
Foraminotomy requires a surgeon to remove a bone from the sides of the vertebrae in an attempt to widen the space for spine nerves.
This surgery can also cause the spine to lose stability.
Disc Replacement Surgery
A damaged spinal disc is removed and replaced by inserting an artificial disk. The introduction of a foreign object into the body always carries a risk of dislocation or breaking, leading to a hardware fracture.
Image used under Creative Commons Licensing: Flickr – Official U.S. Navy Imagery – A doctor performs surgery.jpg