Back to Normal: Surgery Improves Outcomes for Spine Patients

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People with the spine disease called degenerative spondylolisthesis* — who choose surgical treatment — experience substantially greater relief from pain over time compared to those who do not have surgery, according to a study published in the June 2009 issue of The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery (JBJS). In the past, physicians had been uncertain whether surgery provided significantly greater relief for patients, but these results help to confirm the advantages to surgery.

“There are thousands of surgeries completed each year to address degenerative spine conditions, yet, there has never been a large-scale trial to give us evidence that the surgeries really work, as compared to non-operative approaches,” said study author James Weinstein, DO, MS, Third Century Professor and Chair of the departments of orthopaedics at Dartmouth Medical School and Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center.

Dr. Weinstein and his colleagues collected data from 607 men and women diagnosed with spondylolisthesis who were enrolled in the Spine Patient Outcomes Research Trial (SPORT), a multi-center study that included participants from 13 medical centers in 11 states. The study was the largest ever conducted of spondylolisthesis patients. “Until this study, our ‘evidence’ was anecdotal and based on patient reports. We wanted data-based, scientific evidence that we could share with patients to help them make their decisions about taking an operative vs. non-operative approach,” Weinstein said.

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