Grabbing Work-Related Disability by the NeckThe cost of health care is rising quickly. Conditions that are expensive to treat and don't improve are being examined. One of these is in the area of spine conditions. Low back pain and its treatment have been studied a lot. Now neck pain under the label of "cervical spinal disorders" (CSD) is being studied.
One important question has been raised. It concerns worker's compensation patients. Do these patients have a worse result after surgery to fuse the neck than patients who don't have surgery?
In one study, two groups of patients with chronic neck pain and disability were compared. One group included 52 disabled patients on worker's compensation. These patients had surgery to fuse the cervical spine (neck) at one or more levels. The second group was also chronically disabled, but they didn't have surgery.
The surgery group was disabled twice as long as the nonsurgical group. They had twice the number of lawyers involved. They also saw the doctor or other health care worker more often. The surgical group was less likely to return to work after surgery, and they reported a higher rate of depression.
Work-related neck problems may not get better with surgery to fuse the neck if the patient is on worker's compensation. According to one study in Texas, their results are no better than for patients who don't have surgery.
Tom G. Mayer, MD, et al. Impact of Functional Restoration After Anterior Cervical Fusion on Chronic Disability in Work-Related Neck Pain. In The Spine Journal. July/August 2002. Vol. 2. No. 4. Pp. 267-273.
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