Compensation Status Doesn't Delay Canadians' Back Surgery

Study dispels notion of longer waits for workers' compensation or personal disability patients
By Rick Ansorge
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Sept. 9 (HealthDay News) -- In Canadian patients with sciatica from a herniated lumbar disc, compensation status has no effect on waiting times for elective surgical lumbar discectomy, according to a study published in the Sept. 1 issue of Spine.

Jeffrey A. Quon, Ph.D., of St. Paul's Hospital in Vancouver, Canada, and colleagues compared waiting times in 393 patients, 66 (17 percent) of whom were receiving workers' compensation or personal disability insurance.

Although the researchers found that compensation status was associated with a non-significant lower likelihood of undergoing elective surgical lumbar discectomy (hazard ratio, 0.83), their adjusted analysis showed that that it made no difference (hazard ratio, 1.02). For both compensated and non-compensated patients, they found that the mean adjusted waiting time for surgery was the same (seven weeks). They also found that muscle weakness and higher pain intensity at preoperative assessment were associated with shorter waiting times and that symptom duration greater than six months was associated with the longest waiting times.

"These results provide evidence that, contrary to conventional wisdom, compensation status was not associated with longer waits for elective surgical lumbar discectomy," the authors conclude. "While patients receiving compensation have elsewhere been observed to have worse outcomes after discectomy, our results suggest this is unlikely to be due to delays imposed by queuing."

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