Should I have Surgery??
Many people suffering from low back or neck conditions turn to surgery, instead of a “conservative care” option such as chiropractic, acupuncture or physical therapy. Doctors sometimes urge surgery based upon their viewing the condition of a patient’s spine as shown on an MRI or Magnetic Resonance Image. MRI is a sophisticated technique that shows soft tissues as well as bone within the body. But a recent study brings into question whether these images can accurately predict the outcome of surgery simply on the basis of MRI.
What Has Happened?
Journal Neurosurgery Spine is a peer-reviewed publication that carries a great deal of weight with the medical profession. The June 2016 issue reports on a study designed to find out if spinal experts could determine by viewing MRI images which patients suffering from sciatica — radiating pain running down the leg — due to a herniated disc in their low back would fare better with surgery as compared with conservative care.
How was the Research Conducted?
A panel of three spinal experts studied a total of 283 MRI studies of patients who had herniated discs in their low back as well as sciatic pain running down one or both of their legs.
What was the Conclusion of the Study?
Essentially, the study of these 283 patients concluded that experts could not determine ahead of time based on MRI findings if a patient would do better a year down the road if he or she had surgery or underwent conservative care. Here’s how the authors of the study put it, “MRI findings seem not to be helpful in determining which patients might fare better with early surgery compared with a strategy of prolonged conservative care.”
What is the Take Home Message?
Here is what the study concluded: “If the sciatica is not intense, or MRI findings are not consistent with clear-cut nerve root compression, we advise withholding surgery.”
Yours for Better Health:
Jon Mills, DC