Efforts to stop spine fusions where not indicated in states and countries are succeeding, and for good reason. A Washing Post article reviewed 125,000 fusion patient records, while reporting on the recent 600% rise of spinal fusions. Experts and professional societies noted that over half of these patients should not have been treated with spinal fusions. What motivates those fusions? Surgeons who routinely fuse patients take home over one million dollars a year. They can make seven times more money performing fusions than simple laminectomies, a simple surgery that opens up a tight spine canal without using metal hardware.
After recently treating several spine surgeons, successfully, with the Discseel Procedure, we realized that we’ve never met a spine surgeon who themselves underwent a spinal fusion. Why? And why do spine surgeons still fuse their patients when it is not indicated? It’s especially worrisome knowing the reasons for the trend to take spine fusions out of the equation in some states and countries. Fusions are indicated when there is instability of the spine typically due to trauma or cancer. Many patients are being fused for discs that have annular tears that cause inflammation of the spinal nerve.
Fusions often worsen spines by accelerating spine degeneration adjacent the fusions. Accelerated disc degeneration caused by fusions is an unfortunate fact, because anyone understanding that fusing the spine with rods, plates, and screws knows it must cause forces to be moved and increased elsewhere in the spine, thus accelerating the degeneration of discs above and below the fused level. Even “minimally invasive fusions” hurt adjacent discs. Spine fusion outcomes are so poor that Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina stopped reimbursing for fusions based on the diagnosis of Degenerative Disc Disease, because of poor outcomes, high costs and opioid addiction. Many advanced European countries are also making the same decision. If you have been told you need a spine fusion to treat herniated discs, or Degenerative Disc Disease, it would be wise to look at the published literature showing outcomes of patients who have undergone the surgical procedure.
Author: Carrie Aurelius Wright, Director of Biologics for Kevin Pauza MD