Complex Operations for Spinal Stenosis Patients in Medicare Population Increases at Alarming Rate | DC Metro Area Medical Malpra

Posted by: Salvatore J. Zambri, founding partner

According to the Associated Press (AP), “A study of Medicare patients shows that costlier, more complex spinal fusion surgeries are on the rise-and sometimes done unnecessarily-for a common lower back condition caused by aging and arthritis. What’s more alarming is that the findings suggest these more challenging operations are riskier, leading to more complications and even deaths.” The lead author, Richard Deyo, of Oregon Health and Science University in Portland said that “aggressive marketing of devices used in complex fusions is likely playing a role in the increase.”

Between 2002 and 2007, the “rates of decompression surgery (relieving pressure on the spine) and simple fusion procedures (joining just one or two vertebrae) decreased” among the Medicare study participants, the Los Angeles Times‘ “Booster Shots” blog reported. During that same time frame, however, researchers found that the “number of complex fusion surgeries to treat spinal stenosis of the lower back soared from a rate of 1.3 per 100,000 to 19.9 per 100,000.”

What’s more concerning is that those patients who underwent the complex procedures “showed a doubled rate of life-threatening complications, 5.6 percent, compared with a simpler back surgery called decompression,” Bloomberg News reports. In addition, the “more complicated surgery generated average hospital charges of $80,888, compared with an average of $23,724 for the simpler operation,” according to data in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

If you are considering spinal surgery, please speak to your doctor about all attendant risks. Your doctor is obligated to apprise you of all benefits and risks of a surgical procedure so that you can make the best, most informed, decisions about your health.

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About the author:

Mr. Zambri is a Past-President of the Trial Lawyers Association of Metropolitan Washington, D.C. He has been acknowledged by Washingtonian magazine as a “Big Gun” and among the “top 1%” of all of the more than 80,000 lawyers in the Washington metropolitan area. The magazine also acknowledges him as “one of Washington’s best–most honest and effective lawyers” who specializes in medical malpractice matters, product liability claims, and serious automobile accident claims. Mr. Zambri has also been repeatedly named a “Super Lawyer” by Law and Politics magazine–a national publication that honors the top lawyers in America.

Mr. Zambri is regularly asked to present seminars to lawyers and doctors, as well as both medical and law students concerning medication errors, medical malpractice litigation, and safety improvements.

If you have any questions about your legal rights, please email Mr. Zambri at or call him at 202-822-1899.