3-D printing may help workers with back injuries

Medical advances are pointing to the use of 3-D printing to create vertebrae for use in spinal surgeries. This could be beneficial to anyone suffering a work related back injury.

Back injuries are no laughing matter. Whether the injury results in sharp pain, numbness, weakness in appendages or paralysis, anyone who has suffered from a back injury knows just how debilitating these injuries can be.

In some cases, rehabilitation for these injuries requires physical therapy and medication. In other, more severe cases, surgery may be required. When surgery is required, patients may be concerned about the procedure. Patients may wonder just how helpful the procedure will be.

With new medical advances, it appears the odds of a successful procedure are about to increase.

What are common causes of back injuries in the workplace?

Back pain can happen for any number of reasons. Three of the more common examples connected to workplace injuries include:

  • Falls. Whether working at a construction site or in an office, a fall from a height or on a flat surface can result in serious back injuries.
  • Force. Work requirements that include lifting or moving objects can lead to injury.
  • Repetition. The experts at Mayo Clinic note that repeated motions like twisting or rotating your back can result in back injuries at work.

When these injuries are severe, medical intervention may be required.

What happens during spinal surgery?

In some cases, severe back injuries require spinal surgery.

Spinal surgeons often use spinal rods in cases of spinal fusion. Patients may need this procedure for a variety of reasons, including fractures and degenerative diseases.

In order to prepare a rod to fit the patient, the surgeon may need to cut the rod during the procedure. The patient, often under anesthesia on the operating table with his or her back open, waits while the surgeon cuts and attempts to manually curve the rod to fit the patient.

Although there are benefits to this type of individualized care, the process may soon become even more efficient.

Will 3-D printing lead to better outcomes?

It is too early to tell if 3-D printing will deliver, but at this time it appears the process could result in better outcomes for patients who require these types of procedures.

Instead of using the methods described above, surgeons will be able to have a device crafted for their patient. This device will refer to medical scans like MRI and X-ray images to prepare a replica of the spine that better fits the patient.

Although not currently in use here in the United States, Chinese specialists at Peking University Third Hospital reportedly recently replaced five vertebrae in a patient's spine using this method. The vertebrae were custom made for the patient using 3-D printing.

Are these procedures expensive?

Although the exact cost of similar medical procedures varies depending on the details of each individual patient's injury, costs can be high. Those who are injured on-the-job should qualify for workers' compensation benefits to help cover these costs.

Navigating through a workers' compensation claim can be difficult. Whether putting together an initial claim, questioning a low benefit award or fighting a denial, it is often wise to seek the counsel of an experienced insurance defense lawyer. This legal professional will advocate for your rights, working to better ensure a more favorable outcome.