Unnecessary spine, orthopedic surgeries on the rise


The number of unnecessary surgeries performed in the field of spine and orthopedic care is on the rise, with an estimated 50 percent of lumbar spine surgeries deemed unnecessary, according to an Aug. 2 report from Forbes based on a Harvard Business Review study. 

In the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 30,000 unnecessary spine surgeries were performed, even at top hospitals, according to a report from the Lown Institute. 

During the pandemic, elective surgeries were put on pause, with a decrease in hip and knee replacements affecting already struggling health systems, the report, written by surgeon Greg Licholai, MD, said. 

When systems reopened their doors, they witnessed a surge in replacements that were put on hold during the pandemic. CMS projects a 176 percent increase in hip replacements and a 139 percent increase in knee replacements by 2040. 

An estimated 34 percent of knee replacement surgeries are currently deemed unnecessary. Additionally, an estimated 30 percent of patients are dissatisfied with their knee replacement procedure post-operation, according to a study published in the National Library of Medicine

Experts said the risks and costs of elective joint surgery can be high for patients, who are often unaware of the pitfalls.  

"Very few people actually need surgery for back pain or knee pain," Ryan Grant, MD, a neurosurgeon and co-founder and CEO of Vori Health, a nationwide medical practice that specializes in nonoperative care for back, neck and joint pain, told Forbes. "Yet, here we are, forced into a corner by a manufactured perception that elective orthopedic surgeries are necessities."

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