Back injuries are among the most common musculoskeletal disorders and are also the most expensive.
Any job that requires forceful movements, heavy lifting, awkward postures, and walking on slippery surfaces can cause serious injuries to the back. Back injuries can cause the ligaments holding the bones in the back together to change and eventually impair movement. The vertebrae of the spine may rub against each other, causing significant pain. In worst cases, an injured worker may need spinal lumbar fusion surgery.
Lumbar Spinal Fusion Surgery
Lumbar spinal fusion surgery brings together two or more vertebrae in the lower spine. This can be done in two ways. Doctors can either use bone from another part of the body to fuse the two vertebrae or use bones from a bone bank. Regardless of the source of the graft, the surgery involves removing the outer layer of the vertebrae to create a layer of blood rich inner bone on which the graft is placed. The vertebrae and the new bones are held together with the help of surgical hardware such as metal plates, hooks, cages, rods, and screws. The bones grow together into one unit in 3-6 months. The surgery is a very complicated procedure and the worker will be required to undergo a complete health exam before the surgery. After the surgery, the worker will have frequent follow-ups with the doctor.
Recovery from Lumbar Spinal Fusion Surgery
Recovery time depends on several factors. Usually, the worker will spend 2-4 days in the hospital for recovery. He or she will not be able to drive for at least 2-4 weeks and may not be allowed to lift anything heavier than 10 pounds during the recovery period. Physical therapy often starts about 6 weeks after the surgery. The worker may be able to return to work after 6-12 weeks of surgery. Some patients have to wear a back brace for up to 3 months.
Prognosis After Lumbar Spinal Fusion Surgery
It can take up to 8 months to fully recover from lumbar spinal fusion surgery. However, the bones will continue to grow for 12-18 months. According to some reports, 40 percent of people who undergo lumbar fusion surgery have ongoing problems with their back. They may even experience ongoing back pain and may develop problems in other of the spine above the point where the fusion was performed. The worker may have work restrictions for a long time after he or she returns to work.
Workers’ Compensation Benefits
If you have sustained a serious back injury at your workplace and you need lumbar spinal fusion surgery, you may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. However, considering the high costs associated with the surgery, it may be difficult to get the insurance company to approve payment for your surgery. Talk to our St. Louis workmens comp attorney for legal advice. Call The Law Office of James M. Hoffmann at (314) 361-4300 for a free consultation.