Study: Patients return to work at similar times following two common spinal surgeries - MassDevice

There is no significant difference in the amount of time patients need to return to work following minimally invasive lumbar decompression surgery and minimally invasive lumbar spine fusion surgery, according to a new study.

The study, performed by Hospital of Special Surgery researchers in New York City, found that patients in both surgery groups were able to discontinue narcotic pain medication within a week of surgery. Patients who received MI lumbar decompression surgery resumed driving four days sooner than MI spine fusion patients.

“Our study is the first of its kind to look at the return to activities and discontinuation of narcotic pain medication after single-level lumbar decompression or single-level lumbar spine fusion performed with a minimally invasive technique,” Dr. Sheeraz Qureshi, one of the researchers and an HSS spine surgeon, said in a news release. “In our study, all the patients in both groups were able to resume driving and return to work within three weeks of surgery. When you compare this time frame to that of standard open spinal fusion surgery, it’s really striking. Patients having a standard spinal fusion could take six months or longer for a full recovery.”

Lumbar decompression surgery is typically performed to relieve pain by removing a small section of bone or part of a herniated disc that may be pressing on a nerve. Spinal fusion is a more extensive surgery that is performed to eliminate painful motion or to stabilize and strengthen the spine.

The researchers suggest that minimally invasive spine surgery has gained popularity over the past couple of years because its technique uses smaller incisions than standard spine surgery and aims to minimize damage to the nearby muscles and other tissues.

The study’s participants were patients who had elective one level MI lumbar decompression or one level MI lumbar spine April 2017 and July 2019. The patients that were included in the analysis were driving or working prior to surgery or were administered a narcotic pain medication after surgery.

Results showed that it took 117 decompression patients an average of three days to discontinue narcotic pain medication while it took seven days for 51 spinal fusion patients.

The driving analysis included patients you were driving before surgery and were able to return to driving after surgery. It took 88 decompression patients an average of 14 days to drive again and 45 fusion patients 18 days.

Researchers suggest there is “no statistically significant difference” in the time patients in each group need to return to work. Qureshi said both MI decompression and MI Fusion use the same type of initial approach to reach the spine with the same size incisions. There is also less tissue damage compared to standard open spine surgery.

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