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Back Surgery May Be More Common in Certain States After Workplace Injuries
Despite continuous discoveries and new advancements, the field of medicine is not an exact science. It is not particularly surprising that two physicians may offer differing opinions and treatments for the same condition, but their geographic region within the U.S. should not be a determining factor for these differences.
Last June, the Workers’ Compensation Research Institute found that workers who sustain back injuries on the job may be more likely to undergo surgery in some states rather than others. While North Carolina is not at the top of the list, the study showed an approximately 14 percent surgical rate, while the lowest (California) came in at about 7 percent.
Surgery may or may not be the best solution for any given condition, but the reasons for the disparity can make a difference to the health and recovery of injured workers.
Patient Condition and Preferences Should Drive Treatment Decisions
Depending on the type and location of a back injury, patients can often expect more than one treatment option. At the lowest extreme, a carefully-designed and supervised program of physical therapy can bring full relief over a period of time.
At the other extreme, surgery may be the only way to repair physical damage to the spine. Between the two extremes, any number of options might be effective for some patients. When work-related injuries are involved, the overall goal is generally to relieve a worker’s pain and initiate a timely return to work.
Unfortunately, the study seems to indicate that choosing surgery over less invasive treatment often appears to pertain to conditions within a geographic reason rather than focusing solely on the condition of the patient.
While the study indicated that some regions chose surgery at the same rate regardless of whether injuries were work-related, the following two findings could be somewhat disturbing:
- The choice of surgery was more prevalent in regions with higher numbers of orthopedic surgeons and neurosurgeons.
- Surgery was more frequent when workers’ compensation paid higher rates for back surgery.
Patient preference might have an impact on the number of surgeries as well. The study’s findings were not entirely clear, but it showed that surgery rates were lower in regions that offered more non-surgical alternatives, such as chiropractic treatment. Overall, holistic therapies appeared to provide relief to patients, at least within the first year of injury.
Injured Workers Should Have a Say in Their Treatment
Obviously, patients are not in a position to make the best choices in their treatment without obtaining sound medical advice. Still, their personal perspective should be a contributing factor in deciding whether to pursue more moderate treatment over surgery — or choosing surgery as the primary option.
NC workers’ compensation requires injured employees to use pre-approved medical providers, so one avenue of choice is already limited. However, when injured employees believe they are not receiving the right variety of treatment alternatives, they do have the option of seeking legal advice.
An experienced Charlotte work accident lawyer can often help injured workers pursue specialized medical advice or use other options to get the right treatment based on their unique circumstances. Call us at 844-452-3688 or use our convenient online contact form to learn about all potentially-available options in a free initial consultation.