How Spinal Surgery Can Help Curb Opioid Use

Category: Spine Surgery | Author: Stefano Sinicropi | Date: December 20, 2021


Opioid abuse and addiction is a huge problem here in the United States and across the globe, and oftentimes a physical injury is what sends countless Americans down the path of painkillers each year. Because of this, medical experts are always looking for new ways to treat physical injuries without relying on opioids and painkillers. According to a new study, not only could spine surgery help to reduce opioid use, but it can also save patients money in the long run.

Choosing Spine Surgery Over Opioids

A recent study published in Osteoporosis International found that spine surgery could lead to a decrease, and in some cases a complete elimination in the use of oral opioids in patients dealing with a vertebral compression fracture. An estimated 800,000 Americans suffer a vertebral compression fracture every year, and these injuries are associated with debilitating pain, spinal deformities and increased healthcare-resource utilization in elderly patients, among other things, and they are typically treated with conservative methods like rest, bracing and oral opioids.

However, these treatments have shown limited effectiveness compared to operations like a balloon kyphoplasty or vertebroplasty, which as you might imagine are a little more invasive and a larger undertaking for the patient. So while surgery can oftentimes lead to better physical functions, the new research suggests it can also help to free someone from opioid dependence because surgery oftentimes leads to a significant decrease in pain.

According to the study:

  • 57.1 percent of patients decreased use of oral opioids, with 48.7 percent discontinuing use altogether and 8.4 percent reducing prescription refills post-procedure when compared to the six months prior to the procedure.
  • Patients who decreased or discontinued opioid prescription fills post-procedure significantly reduced total payer costs over six-month follow-up relative to baseline, with average saving of $6,759.

So not only can surgery help to reduce a patient’s need for opioids, it can also help to save on the cost of these opioids, saving them thousands of dollars in the long-run.

“Our observations are consistent with the existing body of evidence showing a decrease in opioid use following balloon kyphoplasty or vertebroplasty procedures to treat spinal fractures,” said Dr. Joshua Hirsch, corresponding author and practicing physician at Massachusetts General Hospital. “This study is unique in that it evaluates the impact of these procedures on opioid prescription fills as primary outcome, using a larger, real-world study population.

Oftentimes surgery is viewed as the final frontier, but just because you can cope with pain and discomfort doesn’t mean that you should avoid surgery. Dealing with back pain after a vertebral compression fracture has its own side effects, and it can also be costly.

If you’re one of the hundreds of thousands of Americans who suffers a vertebral compression fracture each year, make sure you visit a specialist who can give you the best advice for your individual situation. It’s very possible that you can recover and avoid opioids without surgery, but it’s also possible that problems will persist if you don’t have the issue surgically addressed. Reach out to a specialist like Dr. Sinicropi to understand all your options and what to expect from whatever route you pursue.

For more information or to talk with a member of his team, give The Midwest Spine & Brain Institute a call today at (651) 430-3800.

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