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Surgery Seems Most Effective for Herniated Discs

MONDAY, Jan. 9 (HealthDay News) -- Married people benefit most from surgery for herniated spinal discs, according to a new study.

And, overall, researchers found that surgery is more effective than nonsurgical treatment options for herniated discs.

In the new study published in the Jan. 15 issue of Spine, Dartmouth Medical School researchers examined four years of data from the Spine Outcomes Research Trial, one of the largest clinical trials of surgery for spinal disorders, according to a journal news release.

Led by Dr. Adam Pearson, investigators grouped patients according to 37 different variables -- such as marital status, education, duration of symptoms and having a workers' compensation claim -- and compared the success of surgery with the effectiveness of other nonsurgical treatments for herniated discs.

The researchers concluded there is a "clear benefit" to surgery for herniated discs. "All analyzed subgroups improved more with surgery than with non-operative treatment," they wrote.

The study identified three specific factors that were linked to the most notable improvement following surgery for a herniated disc:

  • Being married
  • Not having problems with other joints, such as a hip or knee
  • Having back pain that was increasing at the time of treatment

Although married people showed the greatest improvement following surgery, the reason for this remains unclear. The researchers noted, however, that their findings did not take other factors into account, which could affect how a person responds to treatment, such as demographic and psychological characteristics.

The author said their findings could help doctors better predict the benefits of surgery to treat herniated discs based on a patient's individual characteristics. They added that all patients should be educated about the risks, benefits and likely outcomes of surgical and nonsurgical treatments.

More information

The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons provides more information on herniated discs.

-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas

SOURCE: Wolters Kluwer Health, news release, Jan. 4, 2012

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