Posted by Bill Sandweg on 06 May 2011.
I recently spoke to a husband whose wife had undergone what was billed as a minimally invasive laser spine procedure. He said that prior to the surgery they were assured this expensive procedure would solve the wife’s extremely painful back problems. It did not. They went back to the same place for a reoperation and were charged many more thousands of dollars. The reoperation didn’t take away the pain either. Neither of these operations were covered by their health insurance, so all of the payments had to come out of their pockets. They were now in contact with a different clinic which also offered minimally invasive spine surgery and which was assuring them that they could solve the wife’s back pain problem. Of course, it was going to be very expensive and would not be covered by insurance.
There are a number of doctors’ groups springing up across the country which follow this model. They are run much like companies which sell time shares. They have seminars at hotels and offer to review spine studies for free. They give incentive bonuses to their staff for signing up patients. The surgery is expensive and usually not fully covered or covered at all by health insurance. That this surgery is any better than other, more established procedures which are less expensive and covered by health insurance is not clear at this time.
The point of all this is that patients need to be careful when they are considering surgery. Medicine is not like it used to be. Ask yourself whether the doctor recommending the surgery has a strong profit motive. Always get a second opinion from someone who is not trying to sell you something before undergoing a major, elective surgery.
Here is an article about a company that performs laser spine surgery. The article discusses some of these points.