Increase in Back Pain Tests and Treatments to No Avail

September 17, 2010

New research shows there has been an unnecessary increase in tests and treatments targeting back pain.

There has been an unnecessary increase in tests and treatments targeting back pain, according to findings from an article published in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine.

The data demonstrated that there has been a 629% increase in Medicare expenditures for epidural steroid injections, a 423% increase in expenditures for opioids for back pain, a 307% increase in the number of lumbar magnetic resonance images among Medicare beneficiaries, and a 220% increase in spinal fusion surgery rates.

Yet, the incidence of disability from back pain was even higher in 2005 than in 2007. A Consumer Reports survey last year found that more than 50% of patients that underwent back surgery had at least one problem afterwards. The survey also found that fusion was the most common procedure performed.

"Early on, I recognized that too many complex back surgeries were being done and people were suffering unnecessarily. The numbers have only continued to increase. Fortunately, with modern technology in the form of minimally invasive endoscopic laser spine procedures, patients no longer have to subject themselves to traditional open back surgery," commented Alfred O. Bonati, MD, creator of The Bonati Spine Procedures and Chief Surgeon at The Bonati Spine Institute, in a press release.