Search This Blog

1 February 2011

Surgeons, medical device makers find insurers resisting costly back fusions

Surgeons and medical device makers find insurers are resisting costly back fusions and requiring proof that less risky therapy for pain has been given a chance.

Government opens investigation into adult scoliosis treatments

The federal government has launched an investigation into the treatment used in adult scoliosis.
Posted: 6:20 PM Jan 24, 2011
Reporter: Maureen McFadden

The federal government has launched an investigation into the treatment used in adult scoliosis.
Julia Epper, an adult scoliosis patient, used to backstitch, until she developed adult scoliosis.
"I've had back pain since I was 14," said Epper, “It was very frustrating and I felt very limited.”
Diagnosed at age 20 her spine curve grew from 24 degrees, to 54.

Attempts at physical therapy and injections have done nothing for her pain either.
The Hospital for Special Surgery reports that half a million people have adult scoliosis in the United States, and 40 percent will feel more pain each year.

“Many people, as the spine begins to age, and the discs degenerate, beginning to experience more back and even leg pain,” says Charles C. Edwards II, a doctor at the Maryland Spine Center.
A new study shows spinal surgery may be the only true option.

"While we may try medicines and injections first, oftentimes we will move onto surgery because those other methods just are not making a difference for them," says Edwards.

In the United States alone, $860 billion are spent on therapy, braces, and pain injections.
The study, which includes patients from 40 to 80 years old, shows operative patients saw a significant boost in function and quality of life, while non-operative patients reported no improvement at all.
Decompression and fusion surgery worked for Epper, who says, "I no longer have this sharp, burning, debilitating pain. The difference has been remarkable."
Six centers across the US are currently involved in the government's adult scoliosis study.
All six centers are currently enrolling patients with results expected in 2015.

Research Summary:
REPORT # 1744

BACKGROUND: Any individual over the age of 18 who has experienced spinal deformity is considered to have adult scoliosis. Scoliosis is defined as an abnormal, side-to-side, curvature of the spine. There are varying causes of spinal deformity including; idiopathic scoliosis, congenital anomalies, degenerative scoliosis, posttraumatic scoliosis and neuro-muscular scoliosis. Idiopathic scoliosis is the most common form of spinal deformity doctors see, affecting about three percent of the general population. (SOURCE: Adult Scoliosis and Spine Associates)

THE BIRTH OF PAIN: It begins in childhood but advances in pain and deformity in adulthood. Congenital anomalies form in the uterus while degenerative scoliosis is caused by disc degeneration. As a result of spine fractures, posttraumatic scoliosis comes into existence and neuro-muscular scoliosis has been found to develop in patients with neuromuscular disorders like polio or muscular dystrophies. (SOURCE: Adult Scoliosis and Spine Associates)

SYMPTOMS OF SCOLIOSIS: Scoliosis is often painless with back pain eventually developing only as the condition progresses. Deformities may place unnecessary pressure on ones nerves and possibly even on the spinal cord. This can lead to weakness, numbness, and pain in the lower extremities. In severe, often very rare cases, pressure on the spinal cord may cause loss of coordination in the leg muscles, making it difficult to walk normally. If the chest is deformed due to scoliosis, the lungs and heart may also be affected. This can promote breathing problems, fatigue, and even heart failure. (SOURCE:

SIMPLE SCOLIOSIS TEST: Aside from experiencing back discomfort, what'll typically bring a patient to the doctor are the noticeable changes in ones back. Some signs that may lead an individual to the doctor include one shoulder or hip higher than the other, one shoulder blade higher or sticking out farther than the other, a hump in the back that sticks up when bending forward, one arm hanging longer than the other or the waist appearing asymmetrical. (SOURCE:

TREATMENT: Some adult scoliosis treatment doesn't require surgery. A combination of physical therapy, exercise and Ibuprofen can serve as a recommended treatment. Steroid injections are sometimes used to treat pinched nerves. Surgery is only recommended if pain is unresponsive to non-operative treatment. (SOURCE:

* For More Information, Contact:
Mr. Ryan Andrews
Research Assistant
(410) 539-3434