No Matter Where You Live…The Song Remains the Same

FYI – If you have Lumbar Spinal Fusion Surgery, according to a recent Aussie study your chances of returning to work are 50% (or 50% of not returning to work), and a 20% chance of not requiring further care two years after surgery. That sounds like a good deal right?

By: Tim Flynn PT PhD (Evidence in Motion)

Well despite the claims from my Australian Physio colleagues that often claim that they are different down under it appears that when it comes to spinal fusion surgery the song remains the same. In a retrospective review of a total of 476 patients who had undergone lumbar spine surgery within the workers’ compensation system they found a revision surgery rate of nearly 10%. The RTW rate was only 50%, let me repeat that you have 1 in 2 chance of never returning to work after lumbar spinal fusion. However some fortunate ones were able to return to pre-injury duties. How many do you ask 14.2%, let me put that another way “you really need this surgery but you only have about 1 in 10 chance of ever returning to your current job status. However, don’t worry only 78% are still undergoing treatment 2 years after surgery, or maybe i should say “you have only a 1 in 5 chance of not requiring further care after your surgery, could you please sign here.”

Please see an excellent Podcast here. The study author Ian Harris’s quote sums it up, “I don’t believe that spine fusion is indicated for regional low back pain in anyone, and it’s particularly not indicated for a workers’ compensation patient where we know the results are even worse.”

Reference: Harris IA et al. Spine surgery outcomes in a workers’ compensation cohort. ANZ Journal of Surgery 2012, 82:625-629


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