Beverly Hills spine surgeons typically use results from physical and diagnostic tests when making recommendations about which specific surgical procedures would likely benefit patients. Now, imagine knowing with absolute certainty what your odds were of enjoying a successful outcome before having spine surgery. Thanks to a new tool developed by medical researchers, this scenario may not be so far off the mark. Online prediction tools can provide some added peace of mind, but it’s just as important to have the right perspective when using such resources. Here’s what you need to know.
How Was This New Prediction Tool Created?
Researchers tracked results from spine fusion surgeries performed at more than a dozen surgical centers during a five-year period. They looked at an assortment of details related to nearly 2,000 fusion procedures performed during that time. The Spine Lumbar Fusion Outcomes Calculator was created based on patient data involving:
- Pain levels
- Current level of functioning
- Lifestyle habits like smoking
- Previous spine procedures
- Medications currently being taken
- American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) pre-surgery classification score
How Does It Work?
The data discussed above was used to create the new tool patients can use to estimate their odds of surgical success. The tool works by entering a variety of characteristics.
Let’s say you are a 62-year-old, non-white male with Medicaid as your primary source of insurance. You never smoked, but you do take some over-the-counter and prescription opioid pain relievers. Your reason for surgery is a herniated disc, although you’ve never had surgery for this condition before.
You rate your level of back pain at six and leg pain at five (on 1-10 scales). Assuming you are fairly capable of caring for yourself but have some physical limitations because of your discomfort, your current disability score would be 48 out of 100, suggesting severe disability.
With surgery, you have nearly a 65 percent chance of noticing improvements in your disability within a year. You also have a nearly 80 percent chance of seeing improvements with radiating nerve pain in your legs within the same period.
Is It a Substitute for Real Medical Expertise?
Spine surgery isn’t all about crunching numbers. There are plenty of human factors that also come into play when it comes to results from nerve decompression or spinal stability procedures. There may be a lot of data available on common sources of spine-related discomfort, such as disc herniation, spinal stenosis, and sciatica, but surgical outcome is also based on factors that cannot be accurately accounted for by any prediction tool, including:
- The skill of the surgeon performing the procedure (including experience performing certain procedures)
- A patient’s commitment to actively participating in recovery
- Unique, patient-specific factors that don’t neatly fit into any statistical model
- Mental preparedness for surgery (e.g. having a positive attitude and realistic expectations)
Much like online symptom checkers or risk assessment tools some insurance companies use, the Spine Lumbar Fusion Outcomes Calculator might be a handy tool for offering some insights based on a combination of accumulated data and self-reported stats. However, you should still think of such tools as more of a guide, not a crystal ball. Ultimately, it’s best to be as descriptive as possible when discussing your symptoms, experiences with spine-related pain, and post-surgery expectations and goals with your doctor, surgeon, or spine specialist so you can be given the information you’ll need to make a confident decision about whether or not spine surgery is right for you.
If you’re experiencing chronic pain in your back or neck, a professional spine surgeon can tell you if you need to undergo a spinal fusion procedure or get a Coflex implant. Beverly Hills residents can schedule an appointment at The Spine Institute by calling 310-828-7757 today.