Laser Spine Institute has been the subject of 15 malpractice suits since 2009, according to Bloomberg BusinessWeek. The Institute promises quick and effective recovery from back problems with no overnight hospital stay required. However, medical colleagues question the efficacy of such procedures as well as the price-such procedures can cost up to $30,000, more than double the price of a traditional spinal procedure.
Nine surgeons told Bloomberg Businessweek the company is doing surgery that is often unnecessary or inappropriate. The evidence that ablation helps patients is “pretty weak,” says Dr. Roger Chou, a physician at the Oregon Health & Science University and director of the American Pain Society’s clinical guidelines program. “Even in studies showing some benefit, the benefit is small and doesn’t last,” Chou says.
Laser Spine Institute is part of a booming business trend in ambulatory care centers where such back surgeries are the centerpiece of their services. The Institute promises back relief through the use of lasers to burn off, or ablate, sensitive nerve endings followed by a disc “decompression” that removes material or bone that presses on nerves.
One health insurance company, Aetna, refuses to cover such procedures and Cigna doesn’t cover the laser technique used by Laser Spine Institute.
Critics believe such ambulatory care centers are nothing more than profit centers that promise medical results that aren’t supported by medical science or research.
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