The rate of back surgery is increasing. About 250,000 spine operations
will be done this year in the United States. The cost of the care is also
increasing. Over $150 billion will be spent on back pain this year.
MediCare and private insurance companies are working to decrease medical
payments for back pain.
There are several good reasons for recent increases in the frequency of
spine surgery. As the population ages, we have more arthritis and more
back pain. Older people are increasingly active and more likely to injure
themselves. As technology improves, doctors are able to offer surgical
fixes for more problems. Peoplesí expectations have also changed. Even
twenty years ago, people did not expect much care for their back pain.
People now demand the latest treatments and will not accept pain if there
is an operation which might fix a problem.
Unfortunately, there are also bad reasons for recent increases in
costs. The medical system can be wasteful, and some surgeries might be
avoided. For example, some back pain responds poorly to surgery. Some
operations may not be helpful and are more expensive than conservative
care. Spinal fusion is particularly controversial. Some of the other new
treatments, and many of the newer drugs, are prohibitively expensive. Some
argue that society can no longer afford some of the expensive treatments.
When considering an operation for yourself, make sure that you get all
the information. Consider a second opinion and remember common sense. A
big operation for a small problem rarely makes sense.