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Many Spinal Fusion Patients Experience Job Problems After Surgery

After numerous appointments at Overlook Medical Center, you’ve decided you just can’t live with the pain any longer. Your doctors have discussed the risks of spinal fusion surgery with you, and while you’re not encouraged by the long recovery time—at least you won’t have to spend every day in agony.

But while your pain may be more manageable after surgery, you may not be able to do many important work-related tasks. A recent article in the medical journal Spine has reported that many workers’ compensation patients experienced job problems after spinal fusion, including an inability to return to work.

Workers Who Undergo Spinal Fusion Often Suffer Long-Term Complications

The study’s authors looked at the results from spinal fusion surgery in 725 workers with chronic low back pain. Many of the patients had not suffered sudden trauma, but had experienced repetitive or degenerative injuries, such as degenerative disc disease and nerve root disease. Two years after surgery, many of the workers were still experiencing:

  • Inability to return to work. Only a quarter of workers were able to return to their previous work schedules after surgery, many of whom had suffered repeat surgical procedures and at least one surgical complication.
  • Permanent disability. Eleven percent of patients had suffered permanent disability after spinal fusion, a rate lower than those who opted for non-surgical treatment.
  • Medication use. Most spinal fusion patients were still taking heavy pain medications (including opioid drugs) two years after surgery—many of whom had increased the dosage since the surgery.

It is important to note that there are always risks present when a patient undergoes surgery, and that recoveries will always vary from patient to patient. While many workers will recover and return to work after spinal fusion, they may be permanently prevented from doing sedentary work or lifting heavy objects—shrinking their window of opportunity for future employment.

Before you undergo spinal fusion surgery, you should find out if workers’ compensation will be enough to cover the cost, or if you should consider filing a suit against your employer. Click the contact link on this page to get more information on your case in our FREE book, What the Injured Worker Needs to Know: Your Workers’ Comp Guide.


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