Monday, June 20, 2005


Just Because the Doc Says It's So....It Ain't Necessarily So

The June issue of Spine journal highlights this interesting study: even though doctors tell up to 99% of their back-surgery patients that their qualify of life will be better AFTER surgery, a whopping 39% of back-surgery patients a year later report absolutely no difference in pain.

The study involved 197 Swiss patients. Before surgery, doctors predicted "great improvement" for 79% of them and "moderate improvement" for 20% of them. But a year later, 39% had "no minimal clinically important difference" in back pain after surgery than before they went under the knife/scalpel/scope/laser.

In fact, the only group in which patients did notice improvement in mental/general health was among patients for whom back surgery was an iffy proposition going in (and doctors promised "great improvement" in them, too).

Quoth the study's authors: "surgeons tended to give overly optimistic predictions that were not correlated with patient outcome."

Remember that next time a doctor pats you on the arm and says, "TRUST ME. You'll be a whole lot better off when this is all over." Because it might not be the truth.

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