WAITING OR NOT WAITING FOR SPINAL SURGERY? A CHOICE FOR SOME.

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A National Post (Saturday Aug 24 2013) article “Fed Up with the wait” highlights a Niagara Falls New York neuro-surgeon, Dr Michael Stoffman, who is operating on Canadian patients who are fed up with the wait.

According to the article, it is not unheard of for Canadians to wait up to two years just to get an appointment to see a neuro-surgeon. And as long as another two years to have spinal surgery.

The conclusion of Dr Charles Fisher, president of the Canadian Spine Society, is that Canada is under serviced with respect to spine surgery.

Dr Michael Stoffman’s explanation for this underservicing of spine cases is access to the operating room. Dr Stoffman who is in the US can spend up to 3 days of the week in the OR. A Canadian neuro-surgeon might get 1/2 to 1 day per week in the OR.

Because of the restricted access to the OR,  Canadian patients must wait unless they choose to visit a US neuro-surgeon.

Case study:

A 37 year old lawyer had severe sciatica. The wait for his initial consult with the neuro-surgeon was 4 months. Surgery would be months after that. He went to see Dr Stoffman at the Brain and Spine Center. He got a consult a day after he called. The surgery was done promptly. His relief was immediate. The surgery cost him US$8,000. Because he was able to return to work much more quickly, the cost was not material to him.  He was also likely able to apply this cost as an eligible tax deductible medical expense.

Some Canadians are critical of US spine centers that are for-profit businesses. Others see them as a viable option for Canadians who are fed up with waiting for spinal surgery.

It is much easier to understand the importance of this option from the perspective of a spinal patient who can’t get out of bed without severe pain and is going to wait 2 years or more for a solution. This should not be happening.