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Is Spine Surgery Under Assault?

Executive Summary

A recent article published in JAMA has spine surgeons crying foul. The article contends that spending on spine care increased 65% between 1997 and 2005--no big surprise given that healthc are spending in general increased by a similar amount over the same period. But an aggressive PR campaign behind the article seemed to single out surgery as a prime culprit in the rising costs and carried a clear message: that we're spending a lot on spine surgery and getting little in return. Moreover, claim surgeons, the article is just the latest in what they see as a larger campaing to cast doubts on the value of spine surgery and deny care to patients.

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SPOC Inc. (Stevens Proof of Concept)

Low back pain affects 80% of Americans and is a leading cause of disability. Yet even though soft tissues including muscles are the primary source of this pain, many physicians neglect them and focus instead on spinal vertebrae, discs and nerves. And in cases where muscles are considered, pinpointing the exact muscle that causes the pain is extremely difficult with today's conventional diagnostic methods. The muscle pain detection device from SPOC Inc. (Stevens Proof of Concept) is noninvasive technology that uses electrical stimulation to diagnose muscle pain in any part of the body. The company believes its use will prevent many unnecessary spine surgeries that result in failed back surgery syndrome, which can occur in as many as 50% of cases.

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Brief summaries of recent advances in device research and clinical trials, including new evidence of the benefits of herniated disc surgery for older patients; the increase in the incidence of knee osteoarthritis; molecular breast imaging to detect breast cancer; the safety of endarterectomy for high-risk patients; and a new NIH grant program for innovative research.

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