Spinal fusion surgery criticized: Impact on workers’ comp in MN

The risks associated with spinal surgery can be high, but workers' should realize what their workers' compensation benefits cover.

A recent piece in Bloomberg Business discussed some of the risks associated with spinal surgery. The piece involved the story of a surgeon in Minnesota accused of completing highly invasive spinal fusion surgeries that were both unnecessary and unproductive. Although some patients benefited from the procedure, others reported that it made their conditions markedly worse.

Bloomberg is not the only news source bringing attention to reports of increased pain and cases of paralysis associated with these invasive procedures. The Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry published an information fact sheet highlighting the concerns associated with lumbar fusion surgery. In the piece, the agency notes that although approximately half of injured workers show some improvement after surgery, almost a third of patients report "poor" results. It also points to contradictory studies, some that state patients who receive fusion surgery do markedly better afterwards, while others state those who pursue rehabilitation do as well as their counterparts who received the fusion surgery.

Spinal fusion, workers' compensation and Minnesota law

The Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry notes within the fact sheet, What injured workers should know about lumbar fusion surgery as a treatment for degenerative disc disease , that patients should make any medical decision with their physician. However, it also clarifies that workers are allowed to receive a second opinion from a physician of the worker's choice, paid for by the workers' compensation insurer. It also notes that other treatment options aside from spinal surgery are generally covered. Other options can include rehabilitation, chronic pain management and ongoing medication.

For those that choose to go forward with the procedure, as long as the injury is connected to a workplace accident, the procedure is generally covered for those who suffer from "incapacitating low back pain that has persisted for more than three months and who have degenerative disc disease and positive discogram at one or two spinal levels." Certain criteria must be followed in order to receive benefits to cover the procedure.

Legal counsel can help you get the benefits you are entitled to, whichever option you choose

Those who are injured on the job, or in some cases those injured in car accidents driving to or from work, are generally entitled to receive workers' compensation benefits. Whether moving forward with a spinal fusion or other surgical procedure or considering rehabilitation and pain management, it is wise to seek the counsel of an experienced back injury workers' compensation claims attorney. The workers compensation experts at Atkinson Law Office will guide you through the claims process, advocating for your rights and working to better ensure you receive the benefits you are entitled to.

Keywords: workers' compensation