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How to avoid unnecessary spine surgery

Tens of thousands of spine surgeries that patients don't need are done every year

A San Antonio spine surgeon is in hot water after a health insurance company sued him in federal court for operating on over 300 patients who didn’t need a spine procedure or surgery. According to the lawsuit, the surgeon recommended unnecessary spinal injections, microdiscectomies, anterior cervical discectomies, and fusions.

The lawsuit claims that the patients’ medical records were basically identical, containing boilerplate language that was nonspecific to the patients’ conditions and revealing patterns that just aren’t credible. The insurance company alleged that the surgeon repeatedly took patients to the operating room even when there wasn’t any indication that surgery would provide relief.

The allegations aren’t unique to one Texas spine surgeon, though. Other research suggests that hospitals allowed over 100,000 unnecessary procedures on older American patients during the first year of the COVID pandemic, including over 30,000 spine surgeries.

Another study found a 15-fold uptick in the number of spine surgeries in just a five-year period.

Unnecessary surgeries are always medical malpractice

We’ve known for a long time that this type of problem exists. That’s why one of the first things we look at in any potential orthopedic or spine surgery medical malpractice case is whether the surgery was necessary in the first place.

Surgeons invariably rush back to the informed consent paperwork when they’re forced to answer in court to an operating room or post-operative complications. Informed consent paperwork covers every conceivable problem, from nerve damage, paralysis, injury to a vital organ, lacerating a blood vessel, or even death.

No matter how thorough the paperwork is, though, a patient can never give informed consent for negligent surgical care that doesn’t comply with the standard of care. And it’s never within the standard of care to perform an unnecessary surgery.

For true informed consent, surgeons must provide all relevant information so patients can make a true choice. This includes comparing and contrasting the risks of the proposed surgery, alternative treatments, and doing nothing.

Some questions to ask before surgery

Here’s something to ask an orthopedic or spine surgeon before giving your consent to surgery: What’s the risk of not doing surgery?

Sometimes, surgery is the only option in failing to act fast can mean the difference between irreversible paralysis and disability and potential recovery, or at least stopping further deterioration in its tracks.

Other times, though, there are non-surgical options, including medications and therapy.

It’s important to make sure you understand the options before deciding what’s best for your health. Don’t get rushed into surgery until you have all of your questions answered are convinced that it’s the right choice for you.

If you’ve been seriously because of an unnecessary surgery that was pushed on you in Texas, then contact a top-rated, experienced Texas medical malpractice lawyer for a free consultation about your potential case.

Robert Painter is an award-winning medical malpractice attorney at Painter Law Firm PLLC, in Houston, Texas. He is a former hospital administrator who represents patients and family members in medical negligence and wrongful death lawsuits all over Texas. Contact him by calling 281-580-8800 or emailing him right now.


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