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When Back Surgery May Be the Best Option

NEW YORK—February 20, 2008

A new study, published today in the New England Journal of Medicine reports that for a common back ailment, surgery is the most effective treatment.

The Spine Patient Outcomes Research Trial (SPORT), a seven-year, $21 million national study funded by the National Institutes of Health, is the first study to compare the effectiveness of surgical and nonsurgical options on back pain. In an extension of their findings published in May of last year showing the benefit of surgery for the condition of spondylolisthesis, the authors now focused on a more common back problem: spinal stenosis.

"Spinal stenosis is a result of the narrowing of the spinal canal causing compression of the nerves resulting in back and leg pain, and difficulty walking," says Frank P. Cammisa Jr., M.D., chief of the spine service at Hospital for Special Surgery in Manhattan and a co-author of the paper.

Spinal stenosis is the most common reason for lumbar spine surgery in adults over 65, but is the surgery helping more than nonsurgical treatments?

"Based on the 2-year outcome studies of our patients," says Dr. Cammisa, "Patients who had surgery, compared to those treated only with nonsurgical methods, showed significantly better improvement in their pain, their function and their satisfaction."



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