Millions of Americans suffer from back related pain. Seeking treatment for back pain can be frustrating, time consuming, and costly. Lower back pain is one of the most common ailments seen by family practice physicians. If nonsurgical treatment does not work, surgery may be indicated in an effort to restore physical activity. The primary goal of back surgery is to decrease pain and/or numbness that limits daily activities. Symptoms of back pain are often associated with bulging disks or overgrowth of bone. Before considering surgery, always consider other treatment options. Seeking out a second opinion is extremely important especially with spine related issues and surgery.
Spine surgery can be performed by an orthopedic surgeon, highly trained in spinal surgery, or a neurosurgeon. Neurosurgeons historically were the primary specialists performing spine surgery. Overtime, orthopedic surgeons that are trained specifically in spine surgery have emerged as a viable option. These professionals are very well qualified to perform such procedures as they relate to the spine. Neurosurgeons have completed 5-6 years of residency training focused on the surgical treatment of spinal maladies as well as other disorders of the neurologic system such as the brain, nerves, and intracranial structures. Orthopedists have also completed extensive training of at least 5 years and can diagnose and treat almost all bone and joint disorders.
Some of the most common spinal procedures include spinal fusion and decompression. Spinal fusion permanently connects two or more bones of the spine. Spinal decompression is performed to relieve pain caused by pinching of the nerve root. This pain is also known as sciatica. The most common types of decompression surgery are microdiscectomy and laminectomy. Other types of spinal surgery include discectomy, which involves removing a portion of disk causing pain and inflammation, laminectomy that involves enlarging the spinal canal while relieving nerve pressure, and implantation of artificial disks that serve as an alternate to spinal fusion.
Estimated Costs for Spinal Procedures:
1. Spinal Fusion – $39,820
2. Laminectomy – $12,466
3. Anterior Discectomy – $13,491
In most cases, your family practice physician will determine when a referral to a spine surgeon is warranted. Most insurance companies require a referral from a primary care physician before a patient consults with a spine surgeon for treatment and possibly surgery. Spine surgeons generally perform surgeries in hospitals and ambulatory surgical centers (ASCs) where they are properly credentialed to perform various procedures. Choosing to have your surgery done at an ASC will lower your costs for surgery in most cases regardless of insurance status. With lower infection rates, quicker recovery times, and higher patient satisfaction rates, ASC’s are an excellent option to consider for surgery.
Photo Credit: Rachel Haller
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