WVU Orthopaedist Co-Authors Back Study
Surgery recommended for spinal condition common in women over 50

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – A study in the May 31 edition of New England Journal of Medicine, co-authored by the chair of orthopaedics in the West Virginia University School of Medicine, shows a clear advantage for surgical treatment in one of the three most common back conditions for which patients seek treatment.

"Patients with back problems often must decide whether or not to have surgery -- and doctors advising them now have more scientific evidence about when surgery can be helpful, " says Sanford Emery, M.D., of WVU.

The paper is the second in a series detailing the findings of the Spine Patient Outcomes Research Trial (SPORT), a 7-year, $21 million, national study funded by the National Institutes of Health and led by the Dartmouth Medical School in Lebanon, N.H. 

In cases of degenerative spondylolisthesis with spinal stenosis, a condition that affects six times as many women as men and is especially prevalent among African-American women, surgery was twice as effective as non-surgical approaches in reducing pain and restoring functionality for patients.

“The SPORT study was undertaken with one purpose in mind: to give physicians and patients solid information that would allow them to make informed choices when faced with a decision of how to treat their back condition,” said James N. Weinstein, DO, MSc, lead author and chairman of  the Departments of Orthopaedics at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center and Dartmouth Medical School.

 Sanford Emery, M.D., of WVU.

Although back surgeries are among the most common surgical procedures performed in the United States, until SPORT, there had been only a few very small controlled trials to gauge their effectiveness.   

Degenerative spondylolisthesis (DS) is the forward slippage of one lumbar vertebra on the one below it.  It generally occurs after age 50. Although DS alone generally causes no symptoms, in some cases it can result in spinal stenosis–narrowing of the spinal canal which causes pressure on the nerves–resulting in significant pain in the legs that is worsened by simply taking a walk.

For more information, go to: www.dartmouth.edu/sport-trial

- WVU -

For more information:
Steve Bovino, HSC News Service, (304) 293-7087

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